Canada's Year of Asia Pacific

Debate broadens thanks to student forum

One of the grassroots organizations that has sprung up with the announcement that the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation leaders' meeting would be held at UBC on Nov. 25 is the APEC-University Forum.

The forum was founded to create a fuller understanding of APEC and related issues among UBC students, especially the benefits it can bring to Canada as a member economy, and to UBC as a venue for the centrepiece meeting.

Forum members have hosted a series of panels and discussions to give students a chance to voice their interests and concerns on matters ranging from trade liberalization to human rights.

The forum is organized by graduate student Arnab Guha and a small group of students who wanted to broaden the debate on APEC.

"We don't claim to represent anyone, and I believe that's our strength," Guha said. "We are students and we welcome anyone who wants to join us."

And while this includes opponents of the event, such as APEC-Alert, Guha makes it clear that his group supports APEC, despite concerns about human rights issues in some of the member economies.

"I'm from India, and I'd like to see my country become a member of APEC. And as a student at UBC, I'm proud to have the leaders' meeting held here," Guha said.

"I think all of us have mixed feelings. I'm not happy with (Indonesian president) Suharto or Tiananmen Square, but I do have faith in the Canadian government in terms of dealing with these issues. I think the question is, how do you react to them?"

"I have a lot of hope in the Asia Pacific myself. In fact, that is where I would like to see myself in the future," said the Cambridge-educated Guha.

Now a doctoral student in UBC's Dept. of English, with dissertation research affiliation in the Media and Graphics Interdisciplinary Centre (MAGIC), Guha is a resident member of Green College, where most of the APEC-University Forum events have been held.

An introductory reception held in June brought together students, university administrators, and representatives of the Canadian government and foreign consulates.

Speakers at forum events have included John Klassen, director-general of APEC, Vinay Gidwani, a post doctoral fellow in the Dept. of Economics, Tinnie Chow of the AIESEC student group, Li-feng Wang of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, and Jaggi Singh of APEC-Alert.

A communiqué based on the panel discussions will be presented at the time of the leaders' meeting. As well, the forum plans to produce a CD-ROM which will serve as a primer on APEC. For more information on the forum, call (604) 221-1506.

More information about APEC and UBC's involvement can be found on the World Wide Web at www.ubc.ca under "News, Events, and Attractions."