Regional coordination, int'l cooperation essential to post-pandemic recovery, says APEC expert
The informal meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) held Friday is a good sign of stepped-up regional coordination and global cooperation in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and the post-pandemic economic recovery, an APEC trade expert said Wednesday.
"The ongoing health crisis and the urgent need for economic recovery mean that we have to cooperate at the international level even more rigorously. We need to meet more regularly," Stephen Jacobi, executive director of the APEC Business Advisory Council, told Xinhua in an interview.
Jacobi, also executive director of the New Zealand International Business Forum, emphasized regional coordination and international cooperation on vaccination, border reopening, trade and supply chain, economic policy and climate change.
While addressing the meeting via video link, Chinese President Xi Jinping made a four-pronged proposal for Asia-Pacific cooperation, including strengthening international cooperation on COVID-19 response, deepening regional economic integration, pursuing inclusive and sustainable development, and seizing opportunities from scientific and technological innovation.
"I looked at the four areas that the president highlighted in the speech: To strengthen international cooperation (is something) that we have been very much involved in; To deepen economic integration -- in particular, the free trade area of the Asia-Pacific, which has been an APEC initiative for a long time, we certainly agree with that; To pursue inclusive and sustainable development is a priority for us; The last one around scientific and technological innovation, for us, is mostly in the digital economy space. All these aspects are priorities as far as we are concerned," said Jacobi.
He said he believes that vaccination in the Asia-Pacific region needs to speed up and that vaccines should be made more accessible to developing countries through the World Health Organization-led COVAX or national donations.
"We should be discussing now how the borders could reopen safely and seamlessly. Although no economy would be willing to open the border until the health condition is under control, we should be clear that we cannot close the border forever, nor could we fully rebuild the economy in the Asia-Pacific region if the borders are closed," said Jacobi.
APEC members need to have an early regional dialogue on the types of documents required for those travelling across the border and those getting vaccinated, and on how those can be digitalized, he suggested.
Jacobi also highlighted the need to resist trade protectionism and vaccine nationalism.
"We hope to see borders remain open for the essential goods and services for COVID-19 response ... We would like to see economies take further steps on top of the voluntary commitment which was agreed by the trade ministers in June," he said, referring to APEC trade minsters' pledge to speed up the cross-border flow of vaccines and related goods to fight the pandemic.
Jacobi said he hopes that APEC members would take steps to ensure the supply chains in the region remain open and no new border protections are put in place.
"We wish to see more countries ratifying the RCEP (the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) and the expanding of CPTPP (the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership), which China has expressed interest in and which are the building blocks for achieving a free trade area in the Asia-Pacific region," said Jacobi.
Regional coordination is needed for national stimulus plans in individual economies in order to deal with inflation concerns, he said, adding that climate change, as a long-term and imminent global crisis, needs to be tackled hand-in-hand by economies across the Asia-Pacific.