The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Ministers Responsible for Trade, met to discuss on trade matters that is being impacted by the pandemic. As the region kick starts its vaccination programs its also the same time new variants of the Covid-19 virus which is more infectious is causing havoc.
So by no means we are out of the woods or we will ever be, its times like these that wise men and women need to come together, make bold decisions and try solve problems as quickly as possible. APEC has concluded that the Putrajaya Vision 2040 need to be implemented and agree that bold action is necessary especially in these three areas.
Trade as a tool to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic
Defeating COVID-19 is the top priority for every economy. Recognising the role of extensive COVID-19 immunisation as a global public good, there is an urgently need to accelerate the production and distribution of safe, effective, quality-assured, and affordable COVID-19 vaccines. APEC ministers, are focused on trade and investment’s role in ensuring widespread and equitable access to such vaccines and related goods to this effect they have formalised a standalone statement on COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Chains, which outlines the approach to ensuring the trading environment supports the safe and efficient distribution of vaccines and related goods. APEC economies will also agree to consider how to facilitate trade in medical supplies such as those included in the World Customs Organization (WCO) COVID-19 list.
APEC has also agreed to identify and subsequently consider removing unnecessary barriers to trade in services,
particularly those services that expedite and facilitate the flow of essential goods, this is good news for trading blocks which are of dire needs of these goods. On the border and travel restrictions, there is discussions on paving the way for the safe resumption of cross-border travel, this will be done without undermining efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Digital solutions are being considered and how this can be developed to be used by all the nations in the group.
Rules-based multilateral trading system
The World Trade Orgnisation must demonstrate that global trade rules can help address the human catastrophe of the COVID-19 pandemic and facilitate the recovery. APEC economies are working on few things including for a temporary waiver of certain intellectual property protections on COVID19 vaccines, and unwind trade restrictive measures when the need arises. One of the most important contributions that the WTO will make this year is the successful conclusion of the decades-long fisheries subsidies negotiations. However, this will need to carefully discussed here in Malaysia as many fisherman here rely on subsidies to make a living.
Shaping our future prosperity
The pandemic has accelerated the process of digitalisation, with the adoption of digital solutions no longer
optional but necessary. APEC Internet and Digital Economy Roadmap work programme is to be accelerated to create an enabling, inclusive and non-discriminatory digital economy that can foster the application of new technologies, allows businesses and entrepreneurs to thrive, facilitates the flow of data, strengthens consumer and business trust, and allows goods and services to move seamlessly across borders.
To move things forward, APEC will also accelerate implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, in the use of digitalisation for border processes; pre-arrival processing of electronic declarations; electronic documents, electronic certification, electronic payments; expedited shipments; and border agency cooperation.
Last year APEC Economic Leaders proclaimed the Putrajaya Vision for an open, dynamic, resilient and peaceful
Asia-Pacific community by 2040, this vision will need much effort from all the nations and officers in charge of implementation.