What is APEC?

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A big meeting just happened in Papua New Guinea called the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC. Leaders from 21 countries around the Pacific Ocean set up a lot of discussions to do a lot of talking.

A bunch of world leaders, a lot of serious discussions, and at least a few slightly awkward family photos. It's all part of APEC. That stands for Asia, Pacific, Economic, Cooperation. It's a bit like a club, made up of 21 developed and developing countries, including Australia. And together they account for more than 2.7 billion people and more than half of the world's money.

APEC was started by this man, former Australian PM Bob Hawke, back in 1989. He wanted to bring together nations along the Pacific Rim - that means they're around the Pacific Ocean, or islands within it - so they could talk about their economies, free trade and investment. While that might not sound super exciting; it is super important. Most countries rely on each other to trade sometimes billions of dollars worth of goods and services and the idea of a regular meeting was to work out better ways of doing that.

Every year, the world leaders get together, always in a different member country (which explains all the traditional outfits). This year, it was Papua New Guinea's turn.

Australia's leader, Scott Morrison, was there along with New Zealand's PM Jacinda Ardern. Canada's Justin Trudeau, China's President Xi Jinping, and many others. But, no Trump and no Russian President Vadimir Putin this year. Instead, they sent their seconds in charge.

But some people aren't a big fan of just how much these meetings about money actually cost. Others say APEC is more about helping rich countries get richer when it should be doing more to help poor countries, like host PNG.

PNG has spent a lot of money getting ready to host the VIPs and 15,000 delegates. It put up new buildings, renovated its airport and got some very fancy transport. It did have help from China and Australia. We provided security, including a massive assault ship, armoured vehicles, helicopters, fighter jets and special forces soldiers.

But PNG also got some long-term benefits out of this meeting. Australia, the US, China and New Zealand announced they'll be helping the developing country to provide internet and electricity to way more people.

Australia and the US are also set to buddy up to build a military base on Manus Island. Most experts say the aim of this development is to try to make sure that China doesn't gain too much power in the strategically important region.

And it seems that power struggle between China and the US, in particular caused a lot of tension this year. The leaders usually release a joint statement at the end of the meeting. But for the first time in APEC history they couldn't all agree on anything. So, while the idea for these meetings is for everyone to get together as one big happy family; with a group this large, and so many competing interests, maybe it's easier said than done.


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