Stephen Jacobi, Executive Director of NZIBF, traveled to San Francisco for APEC Leaders’ week and writes his thoughts on the outcome.
Shared problems need shared solutions – starting now, say Asia-Pacific business leaders
Working together – as APEC Economic Leaders demonstrated recently – to find coherent, timely
solutions to complex global challenges are the only way the region will continue to thrive, the APEC
Business Advisory Council (ABAC) declared today during their third virtual meeting for the year.
Rachel Taulelei, Chair of ABAC for 2021, said that the Council had finalized its annual Letter and Report
to APEC Economic Leaders at the meeting.
“Our key message to Leaders is that a prosperous, peaceful, and resilient future will only be achieved
through our collective efforts. The challenges we face are profound – but they are also shared. The
pandemic is the most urgent problem, but we also need to navigate climate change, faltering economic
growth, and digital disruption. Standing alone and turning inwards is not the right strategy in a deeply
interconnected world,” said Ms. Taulelei.
The New Zealand Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, opened the meeting. “We were honoured
to have the opportunity to share some of our thinking directly with PM Ardern and we were able to
congratulate her on hosting the first-ever mid-year, Informal Meeting of APEC Leaders,” said Ms. Taulelei.
“It is clear that there is considerable common ground with ABAC. We look forward to our annual
Dialogue with APEC Leaders in November.”
Rachel Taulelei explained that ABAC had made a broad set of recommendations in its Report, reflecting
the range of complex issues facing the region.
“A collective response to the pandemic is the most critical priority. If we want to put COVID behind us,
we need faster, more equitable, and universal vaccination, complemented by freeing up trade in vaccines,
essential medical supplies, and services. Vaccination is also key to the safe and seamless reopening of
borders, when the time is right, which will, in turn, enable economic recovery. APEC should develop a
coherent regional framework for this,” she said.
Ms. Taulelei recalled that ABAC’s theme for 2021 was ‘People, Place and Prosperity’, or ‘Tāngata, Taiao me
te Taurikura’. Taking a holistic view on how those priorities could be integrated and amplified had
informed ABAC’s recommendations.
“The well-being of our people must be at the heart of all that we do – so we have recommended capacity building and structural reform to help empower small businesses, women, and Indigenous communities.
We also call for a digitally-enhanced and trade-friendly food system: ensuring people are adequately
nourished is fundamental to achieving all other objectives.
“When it comes to place, we are committed to ensuring that sustainability underpins and drives all of
APEC’s economic activity going forward. To that end, we have agreed a set of Climate Change Leadership
Principles and a framework for trade in renewable energy which we want to see adopted more broadly.
“As for prosperity, APEC can demonstrate real leadership here, as it has done so effectively in the past – by
championing a credible and relevant World Trade Organisation, putting in place some of the building
blocks towards the eventual Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, and ensuring that we leverage the
potential of the digital economy through greater capacity-building, more accessible infrastructure and
making sure that digital trade can flow seamlessly across the region.
Ms. Taulelei commented that there was a need for urgency.
“The time for action is now. “History shows that a crisis often generates new creativity and new
momentum. Our key takeaway for Leaders is that we need to start seeing results in all of these areas.
“This will help us kickstart the implementation of the Putrajaya Vision 2040 that Leaders agreed last
November, which is obviously important. But even more importantly, it will enable us to look to 2022
with a greater sense of optimism about the future,” Ms. Taulelei concluded.
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