PAFTAD - The Pacific Trade and Development Conference Series

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The Pacific Trade and Development Conference (PAFTAD) is an informal private academic conference series which originated in 1968. Since this time, PAFTAD has been a driving force behind the development of thought on Pacific trade and development issues and important economic policy questions facing the region. These interests have been behind the subsequent development of other Pacific economic cooperation organisations, including the Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference (PECC) and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

PAFTAD promotes policy-oriented academic research and discussion of Asia Pacific economic issues, and serves as the most authoritative source of analysis in the Pacific area by providing a forum for forward-looking dialogue on important policy issues. It also provides high quality publications on these issues. PAFTAD’s relationship is complementary and synergistic to other regional forums. Many of the scholars involved have gone on to hold senior positions in government, politics and business throughout the Pacific region. Others participate within the PECC and in providing key policy advice into the APEC process or as serving as national policy advisors on economic and international affairs.


A panel from PAFTAD 33

The ability to deliver results of conferences has grown in importance as the audience interested in exploring and fostering the opportunities for closer Pacific economic cooperation grew. In 1983, at the Thirteenth PAFTAD Conference in Manila, Dr Saburo Okita spoke of the rise of the PAFTAD series within the broader framework of policy discussions on economic cooperation in the Asia Pacific region. For instance, the PECC Standing Committee, as the executive of the PECC, has been advised on work programs of the PECC by a coordinating group. The coordinating group consists mainly of researchers who have been involved in a substantial way in the work of PAFTAD. In fact, it was the original PAFTAD network which was relied upon to develop expertise within the PECC. Today, at all PECC meetings, many familiar faces from the PAFTAD process can be seen.

PAFTAD has played an important role in briefing officials and politicians on trade development issues of policy interest – directly through publications of conference proceedings and on a personal basis, and indirectly through the PECC. The PAFTAD research network at both individual and institutional levels provides scope for cooperative interaction at government level.

PAFTAD plays an important role in providing these studies. The organisation of the PAFTAD research and the conferences at which it has been discussed has rested fundamentally with individuals in the various Pacific nations and with the institutions in those countries whose support has been mobilised by those individuals in the various ways. These individuals are the experts in the region, the intellectual resource which is drawn upon to provide this type of support to ministers.

In this way, PAFTAD maintains close links with other Pacific organisations. PAFTAD is designed primarily for the intelligent consideration of economic policy issues of importance to Pacific countries. The research papers, which serve as the basis for the conference discussions are intended to meet this aim. The focus on policy differentiates this work somewhat from purely academic economic research, though a major objective of the program is to generate substantial research and analysis of the Pacific economy. This intellectual contribution aims to assist and complement the contributions of practitioners, in government and in the business world, in dealing with the challenges of Asia Pacific development.


A scene from PAFTAD young fellows

An underlying assumption of the PAFTAD Conference series is that the distinctive contributions from the academic sector is critical to effective cooperation among the nations of the Pacific; and the history of Pacific cooperation and development over the past years can be seen as validating this assumption to a remarkable extent. The evidence that the background research, and the Conference series itself, have served as important intellectual grist for the policymaking mill of Asia Pacific nations is to be found in the development of interest in various forms of Pacific cooperation at the intellectual, business and political levels. The publication of conference proceedings contributes to this, but, perhaps more importantly, the participants return home with wider perspectives, better information and new ideas, all of which are communicated informally to government officials, other researchers, and interested persons in business and the wider community. The extension of this network of communication about policy ideas forms an important underpinning to economic problem-solving in the Asia and the Pacific and a major resource in building upon the practice of Pacific cooperation.

Discussion at the meetings focuses on Asia Pacific foreign economic policy issues, and involves participation by a wide range of economists interested in the agenda of international economic issues for the region. Participants have included well-known research economists and others who have considerable policy influence in government and elsewhere throughout the region. The PAFTAD network has played a significant role in the development of the agenda for APEC and other Asian institutions for regional economic dialogue.

Notable Alumni

Numerous PAFTAD alumni have occupied senior political and policy positions in regional governments and organisations, with former Indonesian Minister of Trade Mari Pangestu, a long-time PAFTAD participant, being a recent example. The extent of PAFTAD’s contribution to regional development was apparent in the formation of APEC.

Two of PAFTAD’s earliest leaders, Professor Sir John Crawford and Dr Saburo Okita, were instrumental in leading their countries to establish the tripartite Pacific Economic Cooperation Committee. In turn PECC, which shares many members in common with PAFTAD, developed recognition among nations of the region of the need for a framework to support and enhance the rapid growth in regional trade, investment and technology transfer: APEC.

PAFTAD Endowment

The PAFTAD endowment was established in 1999 to ensure PAFTAD conference series is sustained in the long-term. This fund continues to build and we would welcome further donations to support this extremely valuable conference.