As economies learn to live with COVID-19, and as demand to travel is expected to make a steady comeback this year, APEC is taking the lead to pave a calibrated and measured way of reconnecting the dynamic region of the Asia-Pacific.
In his address to senior officials and business leaders from 21 APEC member economies last week in an event held in Singapore, Thani Thongphakdi, Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Thailand and 2022 Chair of the APEC Senior Officials, underscored the need to reconnect the region to support recovery.
“Thailand recognizes the need to reconnect the region to support economic recovery. Taking forward the recommendation of the region’s business leaders to APEC leaders last year, a Safe Passage Taskforce was created in order to coordinate cross-border travel resumption,” Thani explained.
He pointed out that the objective of the Taskforce is to reopen cross-border travel safely and seamlessly in the short term, while looking to expand business mobility in the longer term.
“The Taskforce will engage subject matter experts by exploring possible common travel protocols and mutual recognition of health certificates, as well as promoting sustainable tourism.”
To enhance connectivity in the long term, Thailand will continue conversations on broadening the scheme of the APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) and other innovative schemes to facilitate mobility for businesspeople and professionals to travel across APEC economies.
“We want to keep the momentum of international cooperation going by further deepening our regional economic integration,” Thani added. “Our discussion on the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific or FTAAP has been the cornerstone in facilitating trade and investment in the region.”
A policy dialogue on FTAAP will be held in May to provide an avenue for member economies and business leaders to discuss how regional economic integration should evolve in the post-COVID era. Thani emphasized the importance of involving APEC business communities throughout this process.
“As our experts are kick-starting a refreshed conversation on FTAAP, particularly on emerging trade issues post-COVID-19, we ask business communities to share these insights on what is needed in the changing landscape,” added Thani.
The First APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) meeting was held in Singapore on 15 to 18 February—150 delegates attended the meeting in person and while most APEC senior officials joined virtually.
In tandem, APEC’s technical meetings are underway, covering sectoral issues such as food security, ocean and fisheries, the digital economy, market access and business mobility. These discussions will culminate at the Senior Officials’ Meeting on 24 and 25 February.