Under the theme of “Equity. Sustainability. Opportunity,” ABAC’s agenda includes a focus on ensuring that micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) can expand their engagement in the global economy.
A meeting in Brunei
Asia-Pacific business leaders call for forging a new path on inclusion, resilience, and sustainability
At a glance
ON TO A BETTER FUTURE From left: ABAC Chile member Ramon Jara, Aboitiz Group chief sustainability and reputation officer and ABAC Philippines staffer Ginggay Hontiveros, and ABAC Philippines lead staffer Patrick Chu
In Bander Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam recently, APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) members urged APEC trade ministers to leverage the challenges facing the region, including environmental risks, financial stress, and the cost-of-living crisis, as opportunities to firmly place the region on a new path of economic inclusion, resilience, and sustainability. Separate letters to APEC trade ministers and transportation ministers and statements on the WTO and the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific capture ABAC’s views.
“The private sector wants to see governments in the region build on the lessons learned from dealing with the pandemic to make trade more resilient, inclusive, and sustainable for all,” said Dominic Ng, 2023 ABAC chair. “ABAC is supporting this effort by bringing forward clear, concrete recommendations for governments that, if implemented, will result in tangible outcomes. Many of these recommendations are captured in the letters and statements that we finalized at our meeting in Brunei.”
Regarding ABAC’s statement on the World Trade Organization, Ng said, “Our businesses, communities, and our planet deserve a future-ready, effective, and enforceable global trading system, that demands ambitious outcomes at the WTO, including on core reforms in agriculture, fisheries subsides and dispute settlement, and in the open plurilateral negotiations on digital trade and the environment.”
ABAC’s separate statement on the FTAAP calls for well-designed and modern trade rules in the eventual FTAAP, building on CPTPP and RCEP, and building out concrete outcomes in the short term that support equity and sustainability and expand economic opportunities for communities around the Asia-Pacific.
Under the theme of “Equity. Sustainability. Opportunity,” ABAC’s agenda includes a focus on ensuring that micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) can expand their engagement in the global economy. ABAC is developing a supply chain resilience toolkit, a self-assessment tool for MSMEs seeking to enhance their ability to withstand dramatic economic shifts. ABAC is also calling for a mechanism to support MSMEs as they adapt to environment, social, and governance (EGS) investing.
ABAC is advancing a work plan on digitalization that seeks to embed trust in the heart of the digital economy, address cybersecurity challenges, promote digital upskilling of the region’s workforce, strengthen digital health, and facilitate interoperability for digital trade across borders.
ABAC is also tackling issues at the intersection of trade and sustainability, including launching a study to better understand the impact of carbon border adjustment mechanisms (CBAMs) on the region and how to leverage trade policy to enhance access to goods and services that can contribute to solving environmental challenges. CBAMs, alongside various large-scale subsidy programs for environmental goods, have the potential to impact regional trade and the attainment of an equitable transition.
The ABAC II meeting began with the half-day Brunei Business Conference that brought representatives from ABAC and the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC) together with business and government representatives from Brunei. In his opening remarks for the Conference, H.E. Dato Seri Setia Dr. Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah, minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II, noted that collaboration is key to navigating the multiple crises facing the world today. In view of this, Yang Berhormat Dato emphasized the importance of APEC economies remaining optimistic and persistent in their work toward promoting integration and in advocating for sustainable, resilient, and inclusive growth.
Pak Arsjad Rasjid, ASEAN-BAC chairman, also addressed the meeting where he briefed ABAC on his council’s current work agenda and outlined potential areas of synergy between the two organizations in addressing their shared goals of achieving sustainability, inclusion, and digital transformation. As this was the first time that ABAC and ASEAN-BAC have met formally, ABAC members expressed their desire for further interaction moving forward.
ABAC members also had the chance to visit businesses and organizations that are driving economic growth and innovation in Brunei, including CAE Brunei Multi-Purpose Training Center, Brunei Innovation Lab, and Royal Brunei Culinary.