For the region’s recovery from COVID-19 to be dynamic and resilient, policies should be designed with inclusion and sustainability objectives front of mind. COVID-19 has widened existing divisions and disproportionately affected those already economically marginalized. Economic recovery should not leave behind small and medium sized businesses, women, youth, the elderly, rural areas, and the Asia-Pacific’s indigenous peoples. This is not just a matter of principle – it is aneconomic priority. A recovery that unlocks the potential of all members of society can provide an essential underpinning of the region’s future growth prospects.
As APEC members seek to recover from the impact of COVID-19, we have been provided with the opportunity to promote a green recovery, both individually and collectively. Policies targeted towards a sustainable recovery will reduce the likelihood of future economic shocks, increase the region’s resilience to the impacts of climate change, and accelerate the transition to a low-emissions economy.
A new structural reform instrument will be an important mechanism to guide economies’ responses to COVID-19 and ensure improved access to opportunities for all groups in society. As a starting point, standardised data collection will be important to understand the impacts of COVID-19 on social and economic wellbeing. It will be helpful for economies to share best practice in designing recovery packages with inclusion goals at the forefront. In doing so, economies should listen to and incorporate the experiences of different economic actors, in order to more fully understand the impact of reforms.
The APEC Economic Policy Report on Structural Reform and the Future of Work will provide APEC with important tools and analysis to support inclusive labor market recovery. Technological change, globalization, demographic shifts and climate change are increasingly shifting the nature of work and the trajectory of occupations, industries and sectors. The impact of COVID-19 on economies’ labor markets, combined with these long-term trends, creates a complex picture with considerable uncertainty. This report provides an opportunity to assess this picture and compare approaches to immediate challenges while also providing recommendations to address the effects of long-term global trends.
In 2021, APEC will develop a new food security roadmap to replace the APEC Food Security Roadmap Towards 2020. The COVID-19 crisis has impacted food security regionally by disrupting supply chains and affecting food production.6 The region’s food systems were already facing significant challenges in terms of population growth, urbanization, climate change, and the depletion of natural resources. The new roadmap should chart a course through the immediate COVID-19 response and develop policy approaches to ensure that the region’s food systems are productive, efficient and innovative, as well as sustainable and inclusive. New Zealand will ensure the process of developing the new roadmap is consultative and plans to incorporate a diverse range of perspectives from economies and the private sector.
In the coming year, APEC will implement the La Serena Roadmap for Women and Inclusive Growth by placing women and girls at the center of economic recovery efforts. This work is particularly important in the context of COVID-19, as emerging evidence suggests that women face higher risks of job and income loss as a result of the pandemic. For example, in New Zealand, 63% of the people who lost their jobs in the June quarter of 2020 were women, and this trend has repeated itself across the region. New Zealand's contribution to implementing the Roadmap will focus on the use of standardized data to better recognize and incorporate women’s contribution to the economy. Building on APEC’s previous work on gender and structural reform, New Zealand will develop and share an online tool assisting economies to make better use of data to create and inform gender responsive policy.
While APEC’s work on women’s economic empowerment has made progress, there are areas of APEC’s inclusion agenda that are less advanced. APEC has recently acknowledged the opportunity for further work on understanding indigenous economies and collaborating to unlock their potential. As a starting point, APEC has begun work on measuring and understanding the scale, strengths and contributions of indigenous economies within the Asia-Pacific region. This work will help APEC to better understand how indigenous economies can be an engine for growth in the region.
As an economic forum, APEC is well placed to consider the policy settings and economic incentives that can drive decarbonization, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and lead to more sustainable practices. New Zealand therefore seeks focus by APEC on market-based measures to tackle our most serious environmental challenges, in particular climate change.
Reform of subsidies that incentivize unsustainable consumption and production can lead to an improvement in economic, social and environmental outcomes. APEC has undertaken world-leading work on reform of environmentally harmful subsidies, with a focus on fossil fuel subsidies and fisheries subsidies. n the coming year, New Zealand seeks to engage in continued capacity-building towards the reform of such subsidies.
There is a significant opportunity for APEC to bring economic efficiency into the environmental response through the further liberalization of environmental goods and services. The APEC List of Environmental Goods is one of APEC’s most significant trade and environmental achievements, cutting tariffs to 5% or less on 54 goods. Given the magnitude of the environmental and climate change issues facing us, it is important that economies explore how to build on APEC’s previous success including by adding new goods to the list and further lowering tariffs. Economies are also already working to consider whether the original definitions agreed for environmental services are fit for purpose, using APEC’s advantage as a nonbinding forum where such issues can be explored and discussed. Building on this conversation will be an important way in which APEC can continue to make use of trade and economic incentives to drive sustainable growth.