A sense of déjà vu leading to APEC

As the nation prepares to host the APEC 2020 Summit next year, one can’t help but sense a feeling of déjà vu as our 2 leading political figures will again be in the spotlight


THE last time Malaysia hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in 1998, it was hot on the heels of the Asian financial crisis, while the then-Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was facing a political crisis with Datuk Anwar Ibrahim behind bars.

The US was represented by VP Al Gore at the summit as the then-President Bill Clinton faced impeachment proceedings for “high crimes and misdemeanors” in the House of Representatives.

The 42nd American president was facing charges for lying under oath and obstruction of justice.

As Malaysia prepares to host the APEC 2020 Summit next year, you can’t help but sense a feeling of déjà vu as the two leading political figures in the country will be in the spotlight again next year as the Pakatan Harapan-led government mulls over the transfer of power from PM Dr Mahathir to PKR’s Anwar.

Either the process could happen smoothly, or not, would determine the underlying atmosphere in the country.

The current American president, Donald Trump, could face possible impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives himself for abuse of power in an election year for the country.

His absence from the summit cannot be discounted as the 2020 APEC summit will take place in the later part of next year — possibly by October or November — when Trump could be facing a vicious campaign to remain president in what could turn out to be a battle of the New York billionaires, should Michael Bloomberg becomes the prime Democratic candidate.

Then we could see VP Mike Pence in his place, much like Gore deputised for Clinton at the 1998 summit.

The major issue for APEC 2020 will be around trade and investment.

The 1998 summit took place when Malaysia and Asian economies were reeling from contagion effects from capital flight from the region.

Malaysia’s move to institute capital controls went against the grain of a more liberal market approach promoted by institutions like the International Monetary Fund.

Market access, however, helped the region recover. This time around, the strategic rivalry between China and the US is hurting the global economy as increasing nationalism and protectionism is becoming the norm.

The trade tensions between China and the US has seen Asian economies become the torch bearers of free trade through multilateral agreements like the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

Hence, the 2020 APEC summit could be a very crucial meeting for the APEC region and the world alike.

Bhupinder Singh is the corporate desk editor of The Malaysian Reserve.