The Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation is made up of 21 countries, including Canada

APEC, founded in 1989, originally consisted of 12 countries: Canada, the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

Over the next decade, nine more countries joined the group: Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Chile, Peru, Russia, and Vietnam.

Map of APEC countries

According to the website, “The primary reason and purpose behind APEC’s establishment is the desire to have a forum that caters to the enhancement of economic conditions of states.”

Essentially, APEC’s members are a group of countries along the Pacific Ocean with similar economic interests. The organization itself exists to promote trade among member nations.


This year, APEC’s annual meeting will be held in Manila, Philippines

Once per year, heads of government from each member nation gather to discuss issues like trade, employment and immigration at the APEC Leaders’ Meeting.

This year’s meeting takes place over two days from Nov. 18 to Nov. 19, and will be one of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first appearances on the international stage. (He was at the G20 summit in Turkey on Sunday and Monday.)

Other leaders touching down in the Philippines this week include U.S. President Barack Obama and China’s president Xi Jinping. Russian President Vladimir Putin opted to skip this year’s meeting, sending Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in his place.

Trudeau will also hold his first one-on-one meeting (these are called “bilaterals”) with Obama at the conference, which will give the two North American leaders a chance to discuss issues like military involvement in the fight against the Islamic State and the refugee crisis.


Canadian trade with Asia-Pacific countries

China is Canada’s second-largest trading partner behind the U.S. – in 2014, our imports from China totalled $58.6 billion, with exports totalling $19 billion.

Stewart Beck, president of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, said Asia-Pacific is becoming a more prominent region in the world today, making APEC an important forum.

“It is the growth engine for a lot of the global economy,” Beck told “So having the leaders have this opportunity to get together and discuss economic issues is quite critical.”

Over the past 25 years, Canada’s trade with the Asia-Pacific region has also grown substantially:

Canada-Asia importsCanada-Asia exports

Right now, Canada has free trade agreements in place with four APEC countries -- the U.S., South Korea, Chile and Peru.

Beck said the Trans-Pacific Partnership – which has had its fair share of critics – would also be a boon for Canadian trade, particularly for the access it would grant to the Japanese market.

“This is a massive agreement that captures 40 per cent of global trade,” Beck said. “In my mind, it’s very important to be part of TPP.”


APEC has a history of making the leaders dress up in interesting outfits

Though the conference attracts some of the world’s most serious men and women, each year the leaders of the world dress up in traditional clothing for what some might describe as a pretty colourful photoshoot.

Below is a sampling of the bright, billowing affronts to fashion that has been shown off at APEC meetings throughout the years.

APEC 2009 Singapore

Singapore, 2009

APEC 2008 Peru

Peru, 2008

APEC 2007 Australia

Australia, 2007

APEC 2006 Vietnam

Vietnam, 2006

APEC 2005 South Korea

South Korea, 2005

APEC 1998 Malaysia

Malaysia, 1998

APEC 1997 Vancouver

Vancouver, 1997