Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, is the Chair of APEC 2020. He opened the 2020 APEC CEO Dialogues Malaysia 2020, which were streamed live on 19 November.

His remarks frame the priorities of APEC during Malaysia’s host year, and how the economic forum will play a role in economic recovery in the face of COVID-19. Below are 21 excerpts from his remarks:

On reimagining APEC

  1. “This year’s theme for the APEC CEO Dialogues is APEC Reimagined: Priorities in the Aftermath of COVID-19. I suppose that perhaps, given the realities that exist in a COVID-19 world, a reimagined APEC has indeed become somewhat necessary.”
  2. “The pandemic has had a lasting impact on the way we view trade and economic priorities within APEC. While the core pillars that inform APEC work will likely remain the same, there is now a real and specific necessity to ensure a delicate balance between our health priorities and economic needs.”

  3. On APEC’s role in recovery

  4. “As a grouping whose economies constitute about 60 per cent of the global GDP, APEC assumes a central role in spearheading post-pandemic economic recovery.”
  5. “We need to trade and invest our way out of the current economic downturn. We must come together and work constructively towards navigating the region along a path of robust, inclusive and sustainable economic recovery and growth.”
  6. “APEC has always been an effective incubator of ideas, perhaps even a trend-setter of sorts, for novel collaborative concepts on areas such as economic and technical cooperation, as well as trade facilitation. Today, as we embrace the new norms brought about by the pandemic, APEC is aptly-placed to capitalize on our ability to voluntarily explore initiatives that will hasten the region’s recovery.”

  7. On partnering with the private sector

  8. “As an economic entity, APEC must remain sensitive to the needs of our private sectors and continue to cultivate an environment that enhances business confidence.”
  9. “A strong partnership between governments and the private sector is pivotal to enable us to successfully overcome this pandemic and mitigate its consequent economic impact.”
  10. “While the government can continue to undertake measures that preserve an ecosystem oriented towards trade and investment, it is ultimately the drive, resilience and adaptability of the private sector that will enhance the economic prosperity of APEC.”
  11. “The first and most important priority is for us to reaffirm our support and commitment for the rules-based multilateral trading system. This is essential for our businesses, as market stability and predictability are the central pillars which ensure that trade and investment continue to flow, even during times of crisis. A well-functioning dispute settlement mechanism at the World Trade Organization (WTO), which serves as a primary pathway for countries to settle their differences, is also critical in this regard.”

  12. On improving the narrative of trade

  13. “Free and open trade and investment have indeed resulted in greater prosperity within the Asia Pacific. However, in acknowledging this, we must also underscore the fact that benefits accruing from trade and investment have not permeated across all segments of our society.
  14. “Even today, there is much room for us to improve the narrative of trade and investment with a view to bring tangible benefits to all our people.”

  15. On bolstering the digital economy to generate jobs and get workers back to market

  16. “Innovation and digitalization are fundamental within this context, as these enablers not only facilitate our efforts to reinvigorate economic activities, but also to safeguard the health and wellbeing of our people. We must, therefore, continue to innovate and leverage on new and emerging technologies that enhance productivity and drive development.”
  17. “Today, continuous innovation is beyond mandatory. It is a prerequisite for businesses to remain relevant.”
  18. “Inventive, or at times, cutting-edge adoption and application of digital technologies is the very foundation upon which innovative business models are built. These digital technologies are pivotal in supporting and enhancing the value proposition of businesses and entrepreneurs.”
  19. “The pandemic has shown all of us that technology can step-in and sustain communities even when our movement is restricted.”
  20. “However, without sufficient infrastructure and close cooperation between the public and private sectors, we run the risk of excluding vulnerable groups due to their lack of access to digital tools. Promoting digital inclusion and narrowing the digital divide by increasing investments in ICT infrastructure for these groups is therefore, a must.”

  21. On inclusive economic growth

  22. “I must stress that economic recovery and subsequently, growth, should ensure that no one is left behind.”
  23. “We must continue to adopt economic approaches that place a specific emphasis on women and youth: the backbone of the region’s economy.”
  24. “The World Bank in a study indicated that a country’s income per capita will grow significantly if economic barriers are removed or minimized for women. This implies the importance for us to acknowledge women's contributions to the economy; and how much bigger a role they would play in a more inclusive economy.”
  25. “The youth must also not be left behind as we turn our eyes to the future, in a post-COVID 19 world.”
  26. “With youth unemployment expected to rise, we must ensure that the younger generation is equipped with the right skills and knowledge that enable them to contribute effectively to the society.”