Senior officials from 21 member economies pushed forward APEC’s work to reinvigorate regional economic integration, reconnect the region and reassure sustainability for future growth as guided by the APEC 2022 theme of “Open. Connect. Balance.”
During the first APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting in 2022, member economies deliberated approaches for refreshing the discussions on the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) post-pandemic, the reopening of safe and seamless travel in the region as well as exploring the bio-circular-green (BCG) economy model.
“In past years, member economies have worked hard in moving forward our work on FTAAP,” said Thailand’s Permanent Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Thani Thongphakdi, who is also the Chair of 2022 APEC Senior Officials.
“While differences in positions on this issue persist, I believe there are opportunities for cooperation, given the changing landscape and emerging challenges especially from the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
“Future-proofing the work on regional economic integration, next-generation issues such as health, environment, sustainability and digital economy need to be considered.”
The APEC Committee on Trade and Investment will carry the discussions on FTAAP and COVID-19 forward, with a scheduled dedicated session on 15 March, and a public-private dialogue in the margins of the APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting in May, in collaboration with the APEC Business Advisory Council.
Members reiterated the importance of trade as a path towards economic recovery, emphasizing their strong support for the role of the multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organization (WTO) at its core.
“APEC can build good momentum for the substantive and meaningful outcomes of the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) rescheduled for this June, including on issues of trade and health, environment, agricultural, fisheries subsidies and the WTO reform,” Thani explained.
Member economies also called for a continued and intensified effort to improve the services sector in APEC through the utilization of digital technologies and the APEC Services Competitiveness Roadmap, as well as by continuing discussions on environmental goods and services.
According to a report by the APEC Policy Support Unit, APEC’s share of total world services exports has declined from 38.8 percent in 2016 to 38.1 percent in 2019, which means that APEC has decreased its trajectory and has to ramp up services exports rapidly if it wishes to increase its global share of services exports by 2025.
Services are critical for most economies as they provide the bulk of economic output and employment. APEC needs to build momentum to ensure an open and predictable environment for access to services markets.
To advance APEC’s sustainability agenda, Thani introduced goals that will support the promotion of economic policies that complement global efforts in addressing environmental challenges.
Thani added that while APEC's mechanisms to further sustainability are decentralized, “these goals driven by the BCG economy aim to provide the entry point to advance this agenda in an integrated and comprehensive manner.”
Senior officials concluded their first meeting of the year and will convene again in May this year in Bangkok, Thailand.
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