Tuesday, July 27, 2021

APEC business leaders connect for COVID response talks

Finance ministers and business leaders from across the APEC region connected today to discuss the ongoing response to COVID-19.

The Informal Ministerial Meeting with Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Advisory Council (ABAC) business leaders was hosted by New Zealand Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister, Grant Robertson (pictured), who is Chair of the APEC Finance Ministers’ Process for 2021.

“Partnerships between government, business and civil society are critical to the region’s response to COVID-19 and will continue to play an important role in the longer-term recovery,” Mr Robertson said.

“The attendees at today’s meeting discussed the importance of that recovery being sustainable and inclusive, and how economies and businesses can work together to achieve this goal.”

“ABAC members also raised the importance of responding to the region’s environmental issues, particularly climate change.”

ABAC Chair, Rachel Taulelei, also offered her reflections on the meeting.

“ABAC is clear that addressing the continuing pandemic must be the top priority for APEC economies – overcoming the health crisis and using wide-spread vaccination and testing for safe and seamless re-opening of borders as a pre-requisite for economic recovery,” Ms Taulelei said.

“This informal dialogue, the first of its kind in an APEC year, has been the occasion for frank discussion with Finance Ministers about what has worked best during the crisis to support communities and business, especially SMEs, and what needs to guide us as we move into recovery mode.

“Sustainability and inclusion are ongoing challenges, which need a stepped-up response in a region that needs to learn to live with Covid. Action to address climate change and other environmental risks are necessary for a healthy planet. Some people have already paid too high a price during the pandemic, including women, youth, Indigenous people, those living in rural areas and those without the skills required for an increasingly digital economy. Their well-being needs to be a priority as we move forward.

“ABAC Members also emphasised the importance of trade and open markets – both to spread the availability of vaccines, essential health supplies and associated goods and services and to keep global supply chains moving. Trade is an enabler of a return to sustainable economic growth in the region.”

The session was an innovation introduced for APEC 2021, making best use of the digital format to bring together people from across the region for an informal discussion.

“This encouraged an open conversation between participants who might not otherwise have had an opportunity to come together during the APEC year. It enabled attendees to gain a deeper understanding of the issues affecting the region and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead,” Mr Robertson said.

“The views of business leaders and the discussions at this meeting have been valuable and will feed into conversations between Ministers at the Finance Ministers’ Meeting in October.”

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