As New Zealand prepares to host APEC in 2021, Derek Cheng takes a look at the last time it was held here against a backdrop of international crises.
Apec 1999 might bring to mind the smiles and waves of a charming Bill Clinton or his golf swing at the Millbrook in Queenstown.
But beneath this amiable surface, there was pressure on New Zealand as the host because Apec was at a tipping point, and under threat of losing its heft.
Meanwhile an international crisis was unfolding in East Timor, and US-China tensions were simmering as leaders touched down in Auckland.
By the time the dust had settled, New Zealand had played crucial roles in opening the door to a peacekeeping force in East Timor, easing the US-China stalemate, and in restoring Apec as a forum of international importance and influence.
And it had also planted the seeds for two major deals - the China-New Zealand free trade agreement and the CPTPP (formerly the Trans-Pacific Partnership) - that would eventually lead to billions of dollars in trade.
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Apec started in 1989 with ministerial meetings, and had only adopted the goal of opening up trade and investment in 1994.
But 1998 saw the uncertainty of the Asian financial crisis and conflict between Apec members. Then-US Vice President Al Gore, attending in then-President Bill Clinton's absence, delivered an inflammatory speech accusing host country Malaysia of suppressing freedom.
By 1999, the future of Apec - even with 21 member economies including the world's largest ones - seemed up in the air.
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"Because the US President had not attended Apec in Kuala Lumpur the year before, we were very concerned for the widest possible attendance, especially from the US," said Sir Maarten Wevers, then a senior official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade who was later dubbed "Mr Apec" for his smooth management of Apec 1999.
"Otherwise we knew there would be questions raised about whether this relatively new Apec process still enjoyed the support of the political leaders."
Events can be derailed at any point - civil unrest in Chile has just seen the cancellation of the Apec 2019 leaders' meeting - and even though Clinton planned to attend in 1999, organisers were anxious until Air Force One finally landed in Auckland in September.
Clinton, daughter Chelsea and mother-in-law Dorothy Rodham emerged from the plane to stirring Māori and Pasifika cultural performances, and warm greetings from Sir Michael Hardie Boys and Dame Jenny Shipley, the Governor-General and Prime Minister at the time.
Auckland came to a standstill as Clinton, smiling and waving at hundreds of onlookers, was driven away in a limousine - part of a lengthy security convoy that included helicopter support.
An estimated 5000 people descended on Auckland for the leaders' week, which included Chinese President Jiang Zemin, the first Chinese leader to visit New Zealand at the time, as well as Presidents, Prime Ministers, a Sultan, thousands of officials and security personnel, and the world's media including the BBC,CNN and the New York Times.
The major events that year were the leaders' meeting at the War Memorial Museum, the CEO summit at the Heritage Hotel, and the formal dinner at the Town Hall - which required some inventive redecorating.
"They had to put in huge curtaining around the upper part of the Town Hall to mask the old seating so it looked more like a grand dining room," Shipley told the Herald.
"There was a huge effort put into that dinner. It was literally the taste of New Zealand."
East Timor crisis and US-China tensions
Meanwhile tensions had been brewing in East Timor, or Timor-Leste, where a vote for independence from Indonesia had sparked violence.
The situation came to a head with the Suai Church massacre, where hundreds seeking refuge from pro-Indonesia militia were slaughtered.
"There was a terrible event where people lost their lives in the church, and people were deeply concerned," Shipley recalled.
"We decided we would invite the [Apec] Foreign Ministers to meet before Apec leaders began to meet. There were the most intense series of discussions."
BJ Habibie, Indonesian President at the time, had not come to Apec because of the crisis, and had been resistant to an international force intervening.
"I remember ringing President Habibie and telling him that the Foreign Ministers would meet, and I think you could call that an explosive conversation," Shipley said.
Then-British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook flew to Auckland to join the meeting, given the EU's and Portugal's interest (East Timor was once a Portuguese colony).
The meeting was separate to Apec and chaired by Sir Don McKinnon, the Foreign Minister at the time, who said it would have been strange to ignore the issue.
"Although Apec is all about economic activities and not security issues, when you get a gathering like that there, you start to look impotent if you don't talk about these things," McKinnon told the Herald.
"It was just a meeting of individual Foreign Ministers to talk about East Timor. We did not sit behind country name plates. We sat there as individuals."
McKinnon said the outcome of the meeting was not important.
"The very fact the meeting took place was enough for President Habibie to say, 'I give up, I will allow a peacekeeping force to come in.'
"The alternative was putting more Indonesian soldiers into East Timor and having more casualties."
McKinnon would not elaborate on his role but it is understood that he was requested to chair the meeting as a neutral figure, as Singapore, Malaysia and Korea were opposed to Australia or Canada holding the chair.
Shipley said the meeting displayed an "east-west alliance".
"It was one of the reasons the Timor-Leste resolution was so successful. It made a very big difference that it wasn't one part of the world ganging up on another part of the world."
Clinton had also offered logistical and intelligence support, and Shipley said she briefed him as soon as he landed in Auckland.
"I still have a photo where he looks as if he's just talking, and literally we were discussing what had changed in Timor-Leste since he had been in the air."
This chain of events led to an international force entering East Timor on September 20, a week after the Apec leaders' meeting.
Another significant sideline meeting took place between Clinton and Jiang, also in Auckland.
US-China relations had been put under strain after Clinton had rejected an agreement that would have granted China entry into the WTO. A Nato air strike had also hit the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia during the Kosovo conflict.
Shipley said New Zealand was a good place for them to meet.
"Quite spontaneously, as New Zealanders do, we said, 'Look, if you would like to meet in New Zealand as neutral territory and out of the political limelight, we welcome that.'
"The Governor-General hosted that meeting at Government House in Auckland and it literally was a breakthrough."
The White House, after the meeting, declared US-China relations "back on track", and China eventually gained entry to the WTO.
Apec itself went off without any serious hitches - though not without some stress.
"For a country New Zealand's size, it was challenging. We didn't have resources of the major economies to literally build special-purpose facilities for an event such as this," Shipley said.
"Thank goodness Auckland has many, many more hotels - and hotels with suites - than it did back then.
"We literally were cutting the walls out of hotel rooms to make what they would call junior suites. There were very few hotels equipped to handle delegations that were 800 to 1000 people."
She said the War Memorial Museum hosted the leaders' meeting because of its relatively secure location - a perimeter fence was also installed - as well as the views of the Hauraki Gulf.
The CEO summit, at the Heritage Hotel, was also seen as a success.
Wevers said once Clinton and Jiang agreed to attend, nine other Apec leaders joined.
"The previous year there were only a few, and now it's the pre-eminent business forum in the Asia-Pacific.
"There were a number of things achieved in the New Zealand year that you can still see reflected in the way Apec meetings are conducted today.
"It was widely seen that Apec was got back on track."
The seeds of a NZ-China FTA, the CPTPP, and tourism gold
Shipley remembers two other key moments on the sidelines of Apec 1999 that demonstrate the value of having so many world leaders in one place.
"I recall having the initial discussions with Jiang on the willingness of China to look at an FTA, and as history shows, Helen Clark and her Government were able to sign that [in 2008]."
The other key conversation she had was with Singapore's Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong.
"He and myself were committed to open markets. We decided to see if we could get a cross-regional initiative, meeting the standard of the Doha round (being proposed at the time), and see if we could persuade others to join.
"It started as the P2, became the P3 (with Chile), and now as history tells us we have the CPTPP."
New Zealand exports to China are now worth $16 billion, whereas the CPTPP economies make up 13.3 per cent of world GDP – or US$10.6 trillion.
The hosting load did not lighten following Apec, which was immediately followed by three state visits - Clinton, Jiang, and South Korean President Kim Dae-jung.
"We sent a letter to South Korea, the US and the Chinese Government and invited them to a state visit either side of Apec, thinking if we were lucky, one might accept. And they all did," Shipley said.
"I can tell you it stretched the wheels of everybody, including me."
Clinton flew to Queenstown after Apec, where Shipley saw great potential for iconic images to boost New Zealand tourism.
"I remember in a casual sense saying to them , 'For heaven's sake, make sure the plane lands so the cameras are in a position so we don't get a photo of an aeroplane, but we get a photo of The Remarkables.'
"And there is a stunning photo of The Remarkables with the President in a late afternoon setting, and those things were mined for many years in tourism terms."
Clinton ramped up the tourism gold with his parting comments: "I think every person, when he or she is young, dreams of finding some enchanted place, of beautiful mountains and breathtaking coastline, clear lakes and amazing wildlife. Most people give up on it because they never get to New Zealand."
Another image that stuck with Shipley was Jiang accompanying a young farm girl to feed a lamb on a Canterbury farm.
"The Chinese President wanted to see New Zealand farming, and we took him out of Christchurch to an ordinary family farm, a middle class farmhouse.
"They had a little grand-daughter who had a pet lamb. We were trying to sell lamb into China and it was the beginning of those meat markets.
"The girl had a bottle of milk and was told who the important visitor was, and she marched up to him and said, 'Come with me and we will go and feed our lamb.' I was told that evening that over 200 million people had watched the President with this little girl feeding the lamb."
Shipley jokingly advised the current Government to be cautious with state visit invitations.
"I would encourage them not to issue three invitations for state visits on the presumption they don't get three acceptances. It was a big job. We pulled it off but there were some hilariously thin margins."
It wasn't all smooth sailing for Jiang, who delayed his state banquet in Christchurch by 90 minutes after refusing to appear while protesters were present.
Police were later criticised for using buses to ensure the protesters weren't visible to Jiang, a tactic they employed again the next day to shield Jiang from Christchurch schoolboys who were holding up banners reading "Save Tibet" and "Honk for a free Tibet."
Last week's fire that destroyed the roof of the SkyCity International Convention Centre has thrown doubt over how the 2021 event will be hosted.
The main attraction of the centre was the capacity to hold the major events of leaders' week - the leaders' meeting, the CEO summit, the ministerial meeting and the Voices of Future summit - in one place.
But there is little doubt that Auckland has enough capacity to host Apec 2021.
"These people are extremely important and have large delegations and security detail, but I'm confident they will work it out and that the challenges will be significantly less than they were in 1999," Shipley said.
The Apec host is required to meet all costs of planning and running Apec throughout
the year including venues, logistics, IT requirements, security, and the costs of visiting leaders.
The 1999 event had cost $44 million, and $234.5m over four years has been put aside for Apec 2021.
Officials and ministers will have meetings throughout the year, starting in December 2020, but Apec climaxes with the leaders' week from November 8 to 14, 2021.
Some 10,000 visitors will descend on Auckland, which will be propelled into the global spotlight.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is awaiting the official damage report on the convention centre before making any calls, though Foreign Minister Winston Peters has said that hosting leaders' week there now seemed "extraordinarily unlikely" .
There are contingency plans, though no one has talked publicly about what they are.
Peters has already floated venues as viable options, including the venues that were used in 1999 such as the War Memorial Museum, the Town Hall, and the Aotea centre, which also hosted the 1995 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.
The city can host events for up to 2300 people in custom-built convention facilities, though Emirates Team New Zealand has already moved in to the Viaduct Events Centre to use as its base.
The Aotea Centre has capacity for more than 2100 seats in its ASB theatre, and the Great Room at Cordis can host banquets for up to 860 guests.
A plethora of venues can host peripheral events, including Shed 10, the Spark Arena, The Cloud and ASB Showgrounds.
"We had far fewer resources in 1999 and still did a spectacularly good job with those resources," Shipley said.
"The physical infrastructure is only part of it. New Zealanders just being who they are made a huge mark on Apec, and I'm absolutely confident that will happen again."
Shipley said Apec 2021 will be just as important, if not more important, than Apec 1999.
"From a New Zealand point of view, other than our bilateral relationships, it doesn't get any bigger or more important than Apec."