The APEC trade ministers were deeply saddened by the human losses caused by the pandemic, according to a written statement issued by the APEC Secretariat and received here on Wednesday.
APEC trade ministers also highly lauded frontline workers worldwide, especially those from member economies, for their contribution and sacrifice in safeguarding public health.
"We are aware that the global community is facing a health and economic crises that have long-term, adverse repercussions on the lives and livelihoods of our people," the APEC trade ministers noted in a joint statement.
The APEC trade ministers also expressed concern over the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable developing economies. To this end, they reiterated the criticality of multilevel collaboration transcending regions to expedite their fight against COVID-19 and vouched to working closely to address pandemic-related disruptions with urgency.
Even as the ministers admitted that stemming the spread of COVID-19 presently remains the highest priority of every economy, remedying the economic challenges must also be accorded a specific focus.
"We recognize the importance of keeping our markets open and working together to deliver a free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment to ensure that trade and investment continue to flow in these trying times," they remarked.
To this end, APEC economies' trade ministers were on the same page to work together to facilitate the flow of essential goods and services to fight the pandemic, including medicines, medical supplies and equipment, agriculture and food products and other supplies across borders, and minimize disruptions to the global supply chains.
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Furthermore, they will ensure that trading links remained open and will seek ways to facilitate essential movement of people across borders -- without undermining the efforts to prevent the transmission of the virus -- by working closely to identify and tackle any unnecessary barriers to trade.
The ministers noted that for APEC economies to apply emergency measures formulated to tackle challenges posed by COVID-19, those measures should be targeted, proportionate, transparent, and temporary and should not create unnecessary barriers to trade, and should be consistent with the WTO rules.
Moreover, APEC trade ministers encourage economies to act swiftly in providing timely and affordable access to essential healthcare services and implement measures to further boost the resilience, scalability, and sustainability of our healthcare systems.
Speaking in connection with the susceptibility of communities to the current economic slowdown, the ministers encourage economies to take all requisite steps to ascertain that support is extended to the most exposed economic sectors and workers and that inclusive policy instruments are in place to expedite their recovery. Returning workers to employment must be a top priority for all economies.
Moreover, APEC economies are encouraged to pursue facilitative measures that will accelerate economic rebound.
To this end, APEC trade ministers directed their senior officials to develop a coordinated approach to accruing and sharing information on policies and measures, including stimulus packages for speedy responses to the economic crisis and long-term recovery packages that can help respond to the economic challenges brought on by the pandemic.
"We recognize the importance of coordinating with our partners and counterparts in the international community as well as with the private sector and academia, whose knowledge, nimbleness, experience, and resourcefulness are vital to addressing this pandemic in a dynamic, innovative, and timely manner," APEC trade ministers said in the joint statement.
They also recognize the significance of bolstering regional connectivity by stepping up efforts to make global supply chains more resilient and less vulnerable to shocks, to advance sustainable economic growth.
As fighting the pandemic, both individually and collectively, and seeking to mitigate its impact on international trade and investment, the economic disruption that accompanies it is transformational. It will likely transform much of livelihood and way of doing business.
Hence, harnessing the opportunities of digital economy and technologies, by utilizing smart working solutions that enable seamless international business and cross-border trade, is paramount to placating the wide-ranging impact of the pandemic and further advancing economic growth.
Hence, the trade ministers concurred on strengthening APEC’s digital agenda, including electronic commerce and related services, with fresh perspectives and innovative means to navigate those new realities together.
"We will work together towards a healthy, resilient, and inclusive Asia-Pacific community. We remain unwavering in our commitment and resolute in our determination to effectively work towards mitigating the health and economic impact caused by COVID-19, fast-track the revitalization of the region’s economy, and foster its secure growth moving forward," APEC trade ministers noted in their joint statement.
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