Shared Problems Need Shared Solutions – starting now: Asia-Pacific Business Leaders

Wellington, New Zealand, 03 August 2021
  • Issued by the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC)

Working together – as APEC Economic Leaders demonstrated recently – to find coherent, timely solutions to complex global challenges is the only way the region will continue to thrive, the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) declared Tuesday during their third virtual meeting for the year.

Rachel Taulelei, the 2021 ABAC Chair, said that the council had finalized its annual letter and report to the APEC Economic Leaders at the meeting.

“Our key message to leaders is that a prosperous, peaceful and resilient future will only be achieved through our collective efforts. The challenges we face are profound, but they are also shared,” Taulelei said.

“The pandemic is the most urgent problem, but we also need to navigate climate change, faltering economic growth and digital disruption. Standing alone and turning inwards is not the right strategy in a deeply interconnected world,” she added.

The New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, opened the council’s third meeting.

“We were honored to have the opportunity to share some of our thinking directly with the Prime Minister and we were able to congratulate her on hosting the first ever mid-year, informal retreat of APEC Leaders,” Taulelei highlighted. “It is clear that there is considerable common ground with ABAC and we look forward to our annual dialogue with leaders in November.”

Taulelei explained that the council had made a broad set of recommendations in its report, reflecting the range of complex issues facing the region.

“A collective response to the pandemic is the most critical priority. If we want to put COVID behind us, we need faster, more equitable and universal vaccination, complemented by freeing up trade in vaccines, essential medical supplies and services,” she said.

“Vaccination is also key to the safe and seamless reopening of borders, when the time is right, which will in turn enable economic recovery. APEC should develop a coherent regional framework for this,” Taulelei added.

She recalled that ABAC’s theme for 2021 is ‘People, Place and Prosperity’, or ‘Tāngata, Taiao me te Taurikura’.

Taking a holistic view on how those priorities could be integrated and amplified had informed ABAC’s recommendations.

“The well-being of our people must be at the heart of all that we do,” Taulelei explained. “So we have recommended capacity building and structural reform to help empower small businesses, women and Indigenous communities,”

“We also call for a digitally-enhanced and trade-friendly food system; ensuring people are adequately nourished is fundamental to achieving all other objectives,” she continued.

“When it comes to place, we are committed to ensuring that sustainability underpins and drives all of APEC’s economic activity going forward. To that end, we have agreed a set of Climate Change Leadership Principles and a framework for trade in renewable energy, which we want to see, adopted more broadly.

“As for prosperity, APEC can demonstrate real leadership here as it has done so effectively in the past by championing a credible and relevant World Trade Organization, putting in place some of the building blocks towards the eventual Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, and ensuring that we leverage the potential of the digital economy through greater capacity-building, more accessible infrastructure and making sure that digital trade can flow seamlessly across the region,” Taulelei said.

She commented that there was a need for urgency. “The time for action is now. History shows that a crisis often generates new creativity and new momentum. Our key takeaway for leaders is that we need to start seeing results in all of these areas.”

“This will help us kick start the implementation of the Putrajaya Vision 2040 that leaders agreed last November, which is obviously important. But even more importantly, it will enable us to look to 2022 with a greater sense of optimism about the future,” Taulelei concluded.