As economies learn to live with COVID-19 and travel demand is expected to make a steady return this year, APEC is taking the lead in forging a calibrated and measured path to reconnect the dynamic Asia region -Peaceful.
In his address to senior officials and business leaders from 21 APEC member economies last week at an event in Singapore, Thani Thongphakdi, Thailand’s Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs and 2022 Chairman of Senior Officials APEC, stressed the need to reconnect the region to support recovery.
“Thailand recognizes the need to reconnect the region to support economic recovery. Following the recommendation of business leaders in the region to APEC leaders last year, a Safe Passage Task Force has been established to coordinate the resumption of cross-border travel,” Thani explained.
He stressed that the objective of the task force is to reopen cross-border travel safely and seamlessly in the short term, while seeking to develop business mobility in the longer term.
“The task force will engage subject matter experts in exploring possible common travel protocols and mutual recognition of health certificates, as well as promoting sustainable tourism.”
To improve long-term connectivity, Thailand will continue discussions on the expansion of the APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) system and other innovative programs to facilitate the mobility of business people and professionals for travel across APEC economies.
“We want to maintain the momentum of international cooperation by further deepening our regional economic integration,” Thani added. “Our discussion on the Asia-Pacific Free Trade Area, or AFTAP, has been a cornerstone in facilitating trade and investment in the region.”
A policy dialogue on the FTAAP will be held in May to offer member economies and business leaders a means to discuss how regional economic integration should evolve in the post-COVID era. Thani stressed the importance of involving the APEC business communities throughout this process.
“As our experts launch a renewed conversation on the FTAAP, particularly on emerging business issues post-COVID-19, we ask the business communities to share this information on what is needed in the changing landscape,” said Thani added.
The first meeting of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) was held in Singapore from February 15-18 – 150 delegates attended the meeting in person and while most senior APEC officials attended virtually joined.
At the same time, APEC technical meetings are ongoing, covering sectoral issues such as food security, ocean and fisheries, digital economy, market access and business mobility. These discussions will culminate in the Senior Officials Meeting on February 24-25.