One of the most closely guarded secrets at the APEC summit in Japan’s port city of Yokohama this weekend is not what the Asia-Pacific leaders might say about currencies and global imbalances. No, that’s all going to be thrashed out at the G20 meeting Thursday and Friday in Seoul. The big topic of speculation here at the Pacifico Yokohama Convention Center is what the leaders will wear when they gather for the annual class photo that concludes the meetings.
U.S. President George W. Bush (L) and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin wear Chilean ponchos at APEC meeting in Santiago in 2004. REUTERS
The last time Japan hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit was 1995 in Osaka. There the leaders, apparently trying to depict the Japan Salaryman look, came out in business suits. Nobody remembers much about that APEC meeting, except that it took place in the magnificent, gold-embellished Osaka Castle.
In fact, APEC summits are rarely memorable for much beyond the fashion show and the intriguing historical settings in which they are often staged. The 1994 summit in Bogor, Indonesia is enshrined in the annals of APEC for the “Bogor Goals” that were agreed there. Leaders committed to achieving “free and open trade and investment” by 2010 for developed economies and 2020 for developing ones, giving the group its blueprint for the future. The 21 summiteers in Yokohama are expected to declare that the five industrialised members have passed their Bogor tests. Another eight in the developing wing have asked to be assessed as well, proud of their record in cutting tariffs and red tape.
I covered the 1994 summit, when Bill Clinton famously kept Indonesian President Suharto waiting and pacing on the portico of the 18th-century Bogor Palace. Everyone was watching Bill work the crowds, while Suharto ostentatiously looked at his watch, peacocks screeching in the bushes. I’ve covered nearly half of the annual summits since they began in Seattle in 1993 when Clinton began the fashion show tradition by outfitting the leaders in black leather bombardier jackets. That was kind of a cool look for everybody.