The pandemic must remain our highest priority: from business leaders to APEC ministers
APEC trade ministers joined Asia-Pacific business leaders on Friday to hear from the private sector their views on the forum’s focus on regional economic integration, trade implications resulting from the economic response to COVID-19 and how economies can be made more resilient in future shocks.
“Free, fair and open trade has enabled massive growth across the Asia-Pacific region,” said New Zealand Minister of Trade and Export Growth Damien O’Connor, who is also the 2021 President of the APEC Trade Ministers Meeting. “But without the energy of the business community, this growth would not have happened.”
Recognizing the serious impact of the pandemic on businesses and industries like tourism, Minister O’Connor underscored the strategic role of the private sector in advising governments on “how we can work together to defeat COVID-19, how we can support our economies through the pandemic, and then build more sustainable, more inclusive economies. “
The dialogue took place on the eve of the 2021 APEC Trade Ministers Meeting, aimed at advancing practical ideas for dealing with the unprecedented health and economic crisis that will boost economic activity and help businesses the region.
“The pandemic must remain our top priority,” said Rachel Taulelei, president of 2021 APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) in his opening remarks to the dialogue. “We need to ensure that trade plays a role in tackling the worst lingering effects of COVID-19 through open and unrestricted trade in vaccines, essential medical supplies and related products. ”
Reiterating the importance of supporting the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the essential role it must play in economic recovery. Taulelei asserted that it is impossible to build more sustainable and resilient communities through trade unless “we give primacy to the role of the WTO and the multilateral system of rules for international trade”.
The corporate council theme for the year is People, Place and Prosperity, emphasizing the inclusion of all people in the region, saving the planet and making a region prosperous by building a Asia-Pacific homogeneous free trade area. Taulelei stressed that the FTAAP must continue to be at the heart of APEC’s vision for a more cohesive, vibrant and resilient region.
“It is imperative that APEC, as a forum, deepen our engagement with the private sector and reflect the reality on the ground by crafting effective and appropriate policy measures to boost business opportunities and confidence,” said Dr Rebecca Sta Maria, Executive Director. from the APEC Secretariat.
Ministers and ABAC members exchanged views on regional economic integration, discussing the most critical issues the WTO is expected to focus on at the upcoming Twelfth Ministerial Conference.
The group also deliberated on the economic response to COVID-19, in particular on keeping supply chains open and maintaining the free flow of essential goods and vaccines, as well as on trade facilitation and digital trade facilitation can do to stimulate recovery.
Preventing and making economies more resilient to future shocks were also highlighted in the discussion, including policies and actions that ensure inclusion and sustainability.
“Either way, there never seems to be a good time for bold action to transform the environment in which we do business in the region,” Taulelei concluded. “We are now living in the worst of the worst times – and it takes daring, ambition and commitment.”