APEC BUSINESS ADVISORY COUNCIL
APEC SENIOR OFFICIALS’ MEETING (SOM III) REMARKS TO PLENARY , 2 SEPTEMBER 2021
RACHEL TAULELEI, ABAC CHAIR 2021
E ngā mana, e ngā reo, rau rangatira mā, tēnā koutou katoa.
It’s a pleasure to be with you once again and to thank you, Vangelis Vitalis and all you senior officials, for the strong leadership you have shown to APEC at a particularly challenging time in history.
It’s amazing how time flies, but since we last met we have completed successful dialogues with MRT and Finance Ministers and met with Structural Reform and Food Security Ministers.
And a month ago, on 3 August, we completed ABAC III and finalised our annual Report to Leaders.
We’re looking forward to upcoming meetings with the Women and the Economy Forum and SME and Finance Ministers as well of course to our end of year Dialogue with Economic Leaders themselves.
We are delighted to see this meeting has been scheduled – after a two year gap it is critical that we revert to this practice once again and we would appreciate your support in facilitating the attendance of your Leaders.
Indeed, we have much to discuss with Leaders under our theme of “People, Place and Prosperity – Tāngata, Taiao me te Taurikura”.
ABAC Members have worked very hard this year, across our five Working Groups and sixteen Task Forces, to develop 43 well-considered recommendations and five Annexes with supporting material.
I’d like to give you insight into the report which I will have the honour to present to APEC Chair, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, on 22 October.
First, on the theme of Regional Economic Integration, our report notes the importance of continuing vaccination and sets out our thinking on how borders might be re-opened once the health situation permits.
We know this was discussed extensively by Trade Ministers and by Leaders at their informal gathering and there is follow up work being done right now to take forward their instructions in advance of the November meetings.
Just as we have seen all the way through this continuing pandemic, it is critical that a co-ordinated approach be taken, whether to enhanced vaccination or safe and seamless border re-opening.
Equally critical is that trade in goods and services should play a role through open and unrestricted trade in vaccines and essential medical supplies and services and in building the conditions for economic recovery.
Support for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and for its continued strengthening and reform, particularly in the lead up to the 12th Ministerial Conference, as well as continuing attention to our long-held hopes for a future Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP), remain top of mind issues for ABAC.
Second, on sustainability, in an age where Covid is a curtain raiser for the even bigger challenge of climate change, ABAC has developed this year a set of Climate Leadership Principles for Business, which we hope can galvanise action across APEC economies, as well as ideas for a new Framework for Trade and Investment in Renewable Energy.
We have participated actively in the development of a new Food Security Roadmap to 2030, one which in our view must adopt a whole-of-system approach, be digitally-enhanced and trade-friendly.
Third, on inclusion, we have developed a number of recommendations to address social and economic progress and the situation of disadvantaged groups including women, micro-, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) and Indigenous people, the latter drawing on the outcome of the first ever Indigenous Business Leaders Dialogue we hosted in July.
Fourth, on digital, we have made practical suggestions to increase the uptake of digital tools and solutions by MSMEs; to achieve more seamless interoperability between digital systems for trade and supply chain management; and to create a more enabling environment for new technologies in artificial intelligence and health.
And fifth, on the economy, we have advocated a stepped up approach to economic recovery from Covid, ongoing structural reform and increased attention to disaster preparedness.
Overarching all of this is the work you have underway to adopt an Implementation Plan for the Putrajaya Vision: we continue to encourage you to deliver a set of early harvest outcomes – we would certainly be failing our citizens if it took another 20 years until 2040 to deliver on the Vision’s promise.
Colleagues, as you see, what we have been doing in ABAC this year follows the advice which I gave you when we last met, drawing on the ancient wisdom of the Māori people and encapsulated in the proverb – “Ka pū te ruha, ka hao te rangatahi” ! – “The old net is put away; a new net goes fishing”.
We have indeed the new net wide to fish for new ideas and we look forward to putting these ideas directly to APEC Economic Leaders when we meet in November.