GUEST POST: Acting Digitally for Regional Impact

by | Jun 11, 2021 | Trade Working Blog


Rachel Taulelei and Trade Minister Damien O’Connor

Rachel Taulelei is CEO of Kono and Chair of ABAC for 2021. Here she comments on progress in ABAC this year.

APEC Trade Ministers have just met and have issued a statement, committing to reduce barriers for trade in vaccines and associated goods and services and to work together to build up the World Trade Organisation and advance regional trade. 

The APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) has had direct input into this outcome.

Our theme for this year is unmistakably from Aotearoa New Zealand, but the outcomes and recommendations are designed to benefit the entire APEC region.

We are now half way through developing our 2021 work programme under the theme of “People, Place and Prosperity – Tāngata, Taiao me te Taurikura”.   Our theme for this year is unmistakably from Aotearoa New Zealand, but the outcomes and recommendations are designed to benefit the entire APEC region. We reported to Trade Ministers before their meeting and met with them on 4 June to discuss our recommendations in the trade space.  

Virtual trade discussions

This year ABAC, like APEC itself, is being delivered by regular, weekly virtual link-ups instead of the usual four three-day meetings held around the region.

At our second plenary meeting on 11 May the prior work we had done enabled us to make progress in multiple directions at once, including confirming ABAC’s input into the implementation plan for APEC’s new Putrajaya Vision to 2040 and a statement of support for a re-invigorated WTO. Advice to Trade and Structural Reform ministers was confirmed and arrangements finalised for further Dialogues with Finance Ministers and Indigenous business leaders.

Advising Trade Ministers

In our discussion with Trade Ministers we emphasised the importance of an enhanced collaborative approach to combatting the pandemic and to boosting economic integration to stimulate the recovery. We also stressed need for greater attention to inclusion and sustainability and how to foster resilience and build back better.

ABAC members believe it is essential for the pandemic response to be the region’s top priority, supported by the elimination of tariffs and non-tariff barriers on vaccines and associated goods and services as a means to safely re-open borders. A revitalised WTO, which reflects changing business needs and supports digital connections and decarbonizing economies is also high on the list.

What’s next?

There is plenty coming up, including meetings with Food Security Ministers, Ministers for women, for SMEs and Finance, culminating in a meeting with APEC Economic Leaders in November.

An interesting hybrid physical/virtual APEC CEO Summit is under planning by Summit Chair Barbara Chapman and her team and will happen in November.

We will continue pursuing relevant business outcomes that match ABAC NZ’s priorities for this year. These range from a statement of priorities from indigenous business leaders to a set of climate leadership principles to guide the business response to climate change. A draft framework for trade and investment in renewable energy will be delivered, along with a new APEC Food Security Road Map, with trade as a central concern.

The digital economy continues as a connecting theme, with focus on support for MSME digital capability and the inter-operability of digital systems supporting trade.

My fellow members Malcolm Johns (Christchurch Airport) and Anna Curzon (Xero) and our entire team are focused on using the digital means available to us to deliver regional impact and support business in these very challenging times.

This post was prepared by Rachel Taulelei, Chair of APEC Business Advisory Council 2021.


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