APEC Ministers focus on economic recovery to rebuild better

Published November 18, 2020, 7:00 AM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

Ministers from the APEC’s 21 member economies have agreed to further advance economic integration in the region focusing on trade and investment, digital economy and technology, structural reform, and economic and technical cooperation.

This was highlighted in a joint statement following the virtual APEC Ministerial Meeting chaired by Malaysia’s Senior Minister and Minister of International Trade and Industry Dato’ Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, who also said that the meeting reflects a united front by APEC member economies and a concerted effort to push forward a regional economic recovery in the region and rebuild better.

Ministers assessed the forum’s achievements in 2020, provided guidance on future work and further advanced economic integration in the region. The conclusion of the APEC Ministerial Meeting sets the stage for the first-ever virtual APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting on Friday, 20 November 2020.

Ministers from APEC’s 21 member economies have convened to reiterate their commitment to pursue free and open trade and investment as well reinvigorating our efforts towards regional economic recovery and growth, explained Malaysia’s Senior Minister and Minister of International Trade and Industry.

Together, ministers are working to advance regional trade and investment amid the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic which has caused massive disruption to supply chains and is wreaking havoc on the global economic landscape.

“This year, we have pivoted, prioritized and progressed work on a number of APEC initiatives, despite the challenging circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dato’ Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, Chair of this year’s APEC Ministerial Meeting.

At the virtual meeting, Dato’ Seri Azmin Ali, stressed the need for member economies to “continue to resist the forces of protectionism, and strengthen support to a well-functioning, rules-based multilateral trading system, while remaining steadfast to advancing the development agenda of the World Trade Organization.”

The APEC region experienced its first ever economic growth contraction in thirty years, with gross domestic product declining by 3.7 percent in the first six months of 2020. This grim scenario followed a surge in unemployment rates among APEC economies, with more than 74 million people who are currently looking for work.

Dato’ Seri Azmin Ali commended member economies’ unceasing efforts in slowly reopening economic activities, returning workers to employment and allowing people to move across borders through the introduction of travel bubbles, “all while managing the collective concerns regarding the health, safety and well-being of our people.”

“The travel bubbles that are emerging within the region are a crucial development as these could possibly redefine the future of travel and tourism,” he added. “These bubbles are also central to revitalizing the essential movement of people within APEC.”

In an effort to bolster a coordinated approach to collecting and sharing information on COVID-19, Malaysia as the chair of APEC 2020 launched the COVID-19 Latest and Immediate Virtual Exchange or COVID-19 LIVE site in partnership with the APEC Secretariat.

The site will serve as a tool for information sharing among APEC members to improve the region’s preparedness against pandemics and as a reference point for member economies’ COVID-19 experiences.

Ministers have also completed their work in formulating APEC’s new post-2020 vision, which will chart the long-term strategic direction for the region for the next two decades. The recommendations from this meeting will be presented to APEC leaders at the upcoming virtual meeting on Friday, 20 November.