NZIBF 2021 Chair Report

We look forward to continuing to maximise opportunities for nurturing and growing New Zealand business’ integration in global markets.

read more


by | Sep 21, 2021 | Publications, Trade In The News | 0 comments

By Rachel Taulelei, ABAC Chat 2021

What is needed to get the APEC region humming again?

If I had to choose an Olympic sport to describe running a global business these days, it would be trampolining, with the wild highs and lows.

Finding ways to improve that business environment will be the top of mind issue when the 63 members of the APEC Business Advisory Council or ABAC sit down (or these days zoom in) with the Leaders of APEC’s 21 economies for our annual discussion in November. This year, as New Zealand is chairing APEC, that means we get the opportunity to frame the discussion.

If there ever was a time for thiskōrero, it is surely now when the continuing challenge of the pandemic requires a coordinated, collective response.  When it comes to finding the solutions for overcoming the health crisis, getting back into growth mode and addressing long term structural issues like sustainability, digitalisation and inclusion, ABAC ensures that the voice of business is heard.

Our theme this year is designed to put our work in a coherent framework – “People, Place and Prosperity or Tāngata, Taiao me te Taurikura”. We need to put people (ngā tāngata) at the centre of everything we do. We need to do so in a way we respect and preserves the environment (te taiao) in which we live.  And we have to continue to have regard for continuing to advance economic well-being (te taurikura).

Trade and investment have a key role to play in both combatting the virus through freer trade in vaccines and essential health supplies and in securing the recovery. In the words of the Putrajaya Vision adopted last year, APEC aims to create an open, dynamic, resilient and peaceful Asia-Pacific community by 2040”.  But a vision without a plan is a day-dream, and ABAC has focused on what is needed to create a seamless environment where it is as easy to do business in one part of the APEC region as another.  That means paying attention to eliminating tariff and non-tariff barriers for both goods and services, to making behind-the-border regulatory frameworks more coherent and to facilitating more cross-border investment.

ABAC is particularly invested in two important elements – the World Trade Organisation, as the ultimate maker, keeper and upholder of the rules governing international trade; and the eventual Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) as an organising principle to achieve greater integration.

ABAC has spent a lot of time this year talking about the conditions under which borders might eventually be opened safely and seamlessly.  While safeguarding the health of our communities has to be of key concern right now, it is not too early to start thinking about how we might return to a more normal situation when it is appropriate to do so.

It has been said that the pandemic is just a curtain raiser for the wider challenge facing the world in the form of rapidly increasing and dangerous climate change.  This year, under the leadership of my colleague Malcolm Johns, ABAC has focused on the principles that might guide business in its response.

We have benefited greatly from the work of the Climate Leaders’ Coalition in New Zealand.  Our ABAC Principles focus on reduction and decoupling from fossil fuels and the adoption of renewable energy; adaptation of both behavior and technologies; and achieving ‘just transitions’, which are fair, equitable and inclusive.  Freer trade in environmental goods and services and a multilateral approach to climate-related trade policy are also part of the mix.

Food security has been a long-standing concern in APEC:  this year New Zealand is leading the adoption of a new Food Security Roadmap to 2030 and ABAC is working hard to ensure that the private sector is fully part of that effort.

It is critical to ensure that the needs of groups which have not benefited as much as others from economic growth and development in APEC are addressed.  We are thinking here particularly of micro, small and medium sized enterprises, women and Indigenous people amongst others.  In July ABAC hosted the first ever Indigenous Business Leaders’ Dialogue – we were joined for a stimulating discussion by over 90 Indigenous business leaders from eight economies.  The meeting adopted a Statement of Priorities which focused on the needs of Indigenous people in the areas of connectivity, infrastructure and data.

Digitalisation is impactingevery part of our economies today.  This year we’ve tackled the digital pillar of our work in three ways.  First, in a workstream led by our own Anna Curzon, we’ve looked at ways to expand digital uptake and make best-practice support programmes more readily available.  Second, we’ve encouraged greater interoperability for systems for digital trade: e-documents, e-invoicing, e-payments and the privacy and security systems that surround them are all key issues. And third, we’ve considered how to develop a more conducive environment for the adoption of new technologies like AI and digital health.

To make all this work, we need to focus on both the short term and long term.

As we gradually get on top of the global health crisis, we should co-ordinate approaches to fiscal stimulus, business and income support. Longer term, attention must be paid to the continuing structural reform of our economies to build resilience to future shocks.

These are the key elements of the “business truth we will be speaking to APEC power” when we engage with some of the world’s largest economies and important trade partners for New Zealand.  New Zealand takes a turn at chairing APEC every twenty years or so. That’s when we get to offer our unique perspective to the rest of our region.

Whether at the level of government or business, that’s both a big responsibility and a big opportunity. In this topsy turvy world, the future of our people, place and prosperity depends on getting it right.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Register to stay up to date with latest news, as well as saving and discussing articles you’re interested in.




Latest News

NZIBF 2021 Chair Report

The NZIBF Board meets with Indian High Commissioner H E Muktesh Paredeshi at its last meeting for 2021.ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING 15 DECEMBER 2021 CHAIR’S REPORT I am pleased to present my first report on the activities and achievements of the NZ International Business...

Let’s try that again: Happy new year!

In another year of disruption and loss there have been some surprising wins for trade. The kindest thing that could be said about 2021 is that things didn’t quite work out as planned.  We did not defeat the pandemic and lives and livelihoods continued to be lost....

A little breathing room at the WTO

A little breathing room at the WTO The emergence of Omicron has meant that the WTO Ministerial Conference has been put on hold – leaving in limbo key decisions about pandemic trade responses and fish subsidies (not to mention agriculture).   But there is some good...

Five Minutes to MC12

In a fortnight’s time, Ministers from the 164 members of the World Trade Organisation will gather for the Twelfth Ministerial Conference (“MC12”) in Geneva. The pandemic, fish subsidies and agriculture will headline the agenda, but meaningful outcomes are far from a...

APEC Economic Leaders’ Declaration

We, the Economic Leaders of APEC met on 12 November 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take lives and impact livelihoods. The evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and its variants will create ongoing uncertainty and an uneven economic recovery across the...

Press release from ABAC IV meeting, 10 November 2021

Business to APEC Leaders: work together to address pandemic recovery, trade, climate, inequality Wellington, New Zealand, 10 November 2021 - Business leaders from the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), meeting virtually ahead of the annual APEC Economic Leaders’...


The ABAC NZ TeamThe APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) is preparing to discuss its Annual Report with APEC Economic Leaders. Nothing like a pandemic to upset lives and livelihoods, and also disrupt this year’s hosting of APEC by New Zealand.  Gone is the “barbecue...

Britain here we come!

We are excited about the Agreement in Principle (AiP) on a future free trade agreement with the United Kingdom! Some 139 years after the first refrigerated vessel left for the “mother country” and 48 years since Britain cast its lot with a united Europe, New Zealand...