Meeting this week in San Francisco, alongside gatherings of APEC leaders and the APEC CEO Summit, the region’s business leaders stressed the need to work together to overcome the pressing challenges of our age.
“Our theme for 2023 has been Equity, Sustainability and Opportunity–and as we bring the year to a close, it remains absolutely on point,” said the 2023 Chair of APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), Dominic Ng of East-West Bank.
“The global landscape continues to be tremendously disrupted–standing still means going backwards. It has never been more important to work on building greater resilience for our businesses, better living standards for our communities, and a sustainable future,” he added.
Ng explained that interconnected modern economies and the global nature of current challenges meant that close cooperation was vital. “We meet later this week with APEC leaders. Our main message will be that only by collaborating will we successfully navigate through an increasingly fragmented and fractious operating environment.”
Highlighting ABAC’s specific recommendations, Ng said that ABAC continues to champion more seamless open markets, trade and digital transformation, including through a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific and the global rules system of the World Trade Organization. “We also want to see concrete progress on real-world issues like paperless trade.”
At the same time, small businesses, women and Indigenous entrepreneurs should not be left behind. “We have come up with practical initiatives including a Supply Chain Resilience Toolkit, an ESG Framework to equip small businesses for sustainable supply chains and a Cybersecurity Toolkit to build trust,” he said.
ABAC has also issued standalone statements on two landmark issues–artificial intelligence (AI) and the climate response–underscoring its dedication to shaping a world where economic growth aligns with fairness, inclusion and environmental stewardship and harnessing the dynamic potential of our region to deliver new waves of innovation and sustainable growth to support livelihoods and help address some of the most pressing challenges.
“Generative AI holds the potential for radical transformation. We want a positive vision for AI. While we want to harness its benefits, we also need to mitigate its risks through enabling approaches combined with well-designed guardrails for responsible and inclusive approaches,” said Ng. “Our statement has some important ideas on this and commitment to a multiyear workplan.”
In its COP28 statement, ABAC urged APEC collaboration at the upcoming UN climate meeting in Dubai. “ABAC’s Climate Leadership Principles of reduction, adaptation and just transitions can help shape the urgent practical actions that are needed, including for financing, climate-smart trade and protecting the most vulnerable,” Ng added.
“APEC economies must work on this together at COP28 for the sake of our people, our prosperity and our planet.” ABAC members expected to discuss those issues further during the inaugural Sustainable Future Forum, organised by ABAC USA, the following day.
Climate was also on the agenda during an ABAC engagement with APEC Finance Ministers, hosted by the United States Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. “Financing is a critical lever in the transition to a low-carbon economy, and one where the private sector can be a key partner. Massive investment is needed–but it is still cheaper than the alternative,” Ng explained.
ABAC also continues to serve as a regional ideas lab, including under a new agreement with Southeast Asia’s ASEAN Business Advisory Council to work on digital economy issues.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Ng passed the chairmanship to ABAC Peru’s Julia Torreblanca, who will lead ABAC next year. The incoming chair noted that ABAC would focus on ‘People, Business and Prosperity’ in 2024.
“We want to build on this year’s outcomes to promote regional economic integration, sustainability and human development by leveraging powerful catalysts such as digitalization and innovation, along with finance and investment,” Torreblanca noted.
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