APEC is forging ahead on its effort to advance regional economic integration by future-proofing regional travel and boosting sustainability goals in a bid to dampen the impact of continued economic pressure coming from lingering supply chain disruptions, inflation and food insecurity.
Addressing the region's business leaders at the APEC Business Advisory Council meeting held in Ha Long Bay in Viet Nam, Thani Thongphakdi, Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Thailand and 2022 Chair of the APEC Senior Officials, emphasized member economies' commitment to facilitating trade and investment in the region and addressing the economic crisis.
"On our priority to strengthen regional economic integration, we made good progress in moving forward the conversation on the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific or FTAAP," Thani added.
"We took on board the private sector's recommendations and agreed to develop a multi-year workplan, on which we look forward to further collaborating with APEC business leaders to advance the FTAAP agenda," Thani further explained. The workplan will focus on digitalization, inclusive growth, sustainability, trade and investment, as well as trade response to the pandemic.
Reconnecting the region remains high on the agenda as tourism and travel is a key economic driver for recovery. Thailand, the host of APEC 2022, drives APEC's work on safe passage this year.
"Although the world is heading towards more open border policies, with travel restrictive measures like quarantine, vaccination and testing requirements subsiding, many restrictions still remain," Thani added.
"Member economies agreed on a number of initiatives that focus on the interoperability of vaccination certificates and a one-stop information platform for travelers," he continued. "We also discussed a number of other initiatives including on exploring health technologies, accelerating travel of air and maritime crews and enhancing business mobility."
Trade ministers welcomed the Voluntary Principles for the Interoperability of Vaccination Certificates in the APEC Region, agreed upon during their meeting in Bangkok on 21 to 22 May, which demonstrates members' readiness to harmonize the different vaccination certificates system.
"We will work to ensure that cross-border travel within APEC remains resilient and crisis-proof, especially as we explore how APEC can take advantage of the vast digital solutions and drives structural changes to improve regional travel for a more resilient and a more responsive future," Thani explained.
Member economies are also considering the Bangkok Goals for the Bio-Circular-Green (BCG) Economy, which will outline the measures to achieve ambitious sustainability objectives, including carbon neutrality and net zero greenhouse gas emissions, sustainable trade and investment, environmental conservation and resource efficiency towards zero waste.
"The Bangkok Goals will include recommendations and identify available enablers that will help accelerate our effort to achieve these objectives," Thani added.
"The recommendations and inputs provided by the region's business community are crucial for ensuring that APEC's work is in line with the challenges on the ground," Dr Rebecca Sta Maria, APEC Secretariat's Executive Director added.
"In addressing persistent economic pressure and navigating a post-pandemic world, we need to look at communiques differently and focus on outcomes that promote economic developments, and at the same time recognize the tensions and differences between member economies," Sta Maria concluded. "We should carry through lessons we learned in the pandemic to make lives easier for people going forward."