Business leaders from 21 Asia-Pacific economies discussed at this week’s virtual meeting ways to unitedly tackle the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic and rebuild the region’s economies, according to the APEC Business Advisory Council’s (ABAC) statement issued on Wednesday.
“We are living through the crisis of a century, and strength comes from our determination to work together,” ABAC chair Rachel Taulelei said.
“Overcoming the current adversity, whether it is by restoring public health, reopening borders, securing economic recovery, or achieving more equitable communities, demands constructive, creative, and above all, collaborative approaches,” she said.
Taulelei emphasized that the need for such coordinated thinking has been brought home very vividly by the spectre of vaccine export restrictions.
“It remains true, as it has been since the start of this crisis, that we all remain vulnerable if any of us remains vulnerable,” she cautioned.
Taulelei made the remarks after the first ABAC meeting of 2021 that was opened with an address from Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern.
“The focus this year at ABAC is on people, place, and prosperity – the three elements that are all essential to creating the kind of societies we want to live in,” she said.
“Inclusion for all people is our North Star – so we will be working on how to ensure access for all to Covid vaccinations, essential goods and food supplies; how small businesses can operate on a level playing field; and how to empower women and indigenous populations for success,” she added.
To achieve a prosperous region, especially after the bodyblows of 2020, Taulelei said demands that the most fundamental of APEC goals are free and open markets.
“That means building a seamless free trade area of the Asia-Pacific and championing the World Trade Organization, including initiatives to keep supply chains functioning and trade flowing as well as the reopening of borders and resumption of travel that will revive the region’s economic growth,” she said.
Taulelei said the requisite efforts to encourage economic recovery should be supported by the practice of digital economy.
“Digital tools are fundamental to resilience, sustainability, and inclusion. Emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, can unleash even greater opportunities – but we need a trusted, interoperable enabling environment to realize that potential,” she reiterated.
Taulelei said the APEC Putrajaya Vision, agreed by APEC Leaders late last year, provided an imperative to act.
“The vision calls for an open, dynamic, resilient, and peaceful Asia-Pacific community by 2040. The road to get there will not be easy, but the business of business is solving problems – and ABAC is ready and eager for the challenge,” she said.