“A resolute push from the private sector provides the much-needed tailwinds for policymakers to move efforts in advancing regional economic integration, inclusivity, the digital economy and sustainability,” said the APEC Secretariat’s Executive Director, Dr Rebecca Sta Maria.
During a visit to Canada, Dr Sta Maria briefed the region’s business leaders on progress made by APEC towards the recommendations provided by the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) to embrace life post-COVID and future-proof the region’s trade architecture.
“This year, Thailand is committed to refreshing our discussions on the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific, or FTAAP—an important issue for us all, but something that could be an albatross for policymakers,” Dr Sta Maria said in her remarks at the second meeting of ABAC on Wednesday.
“We need to come together, really engage and deliberate on what kind of next-generation trade and investment issues can be covered, including labor environments and the digital and green economy, as well as where will FTAAP appear in the current architecture of regional trade agreements.”
She highlighted the importance of advancing APEC’s work to reopen borders for safe and seamless travel, especially with respect to interoperability and mutual recognition of vaccine certificates, as well as a more inclusive APEC Business Travel Card—all of which are high on Thailand’s agenda as the host of APEC 2022.
ABAC represents business leaders from the 21 APEC member economies and is currently convening in Vancouver for their second meeting of the year to develop policy recommendations for APEC Leaders. A dialogue between ABAC and APEC Ministers will be held at the upcoming Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting on 21-22 May in Bangkok, Thailand.
Dr Sta Maria reiterated the importance of strong cooperation between policymakers, business leaders, academia and youth in ensuring that a post-COVID growth model is sustainable and inclusive, and made in consultation with organizations on how to bring more engagement across sectors in APEC.
“APEC represents a specific way for economies to cooperate: it is voluntary, nonbinding and operates on consensus; these factors make it possible for such a diverse group of economies to work together,” Dr Sta Maria said.
“The internationalization of small and medium enterprises, transition to a low-carbon, green and circular economy and the urgent need to equip the region better for the digital age are some of the priorities shared by APEC and Canada,” Dr Sta Maria explained. “APEC is very open to inputs and collaboration with businesses, academia and the youth and we highly encourage engagement that strengthens not only our work agenda, but also ties between the Pacific and Asia.”
The organizations consulted include Google, the Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada as well as the University of British Columbia. Dr Sta Maria also met with Canada’s Trade Commissioner, Sara Wilshaw, as well as the Digital Supercluster of British Columbia.
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