Jakarta (ANTARA) - APEC senior officials are convening to push for bold and practical trade policies aimed at driving recovery as uncertainty of the pandemic looms large over efforts to prepare for future shocks.

"APEC is at a critical juncture as we grapple with the prolonged economic and health crisis.," 2021 New Zealand Chair of APEC Senior Officials Vangelis Vitalis noted in a release issued by the APEC Secretariat and received here on Friday.

APEC has a responsibility to chart the way forward in order to achieve strong, balanced, secure, sustainable, and inclusive growth across the region, said Vitalis, concurrently the deputy secretary for Trade and Economic Affairs of New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

"In the midst of these uncertainties, member economies are joining and working together based on our shared belief that more trade and openness along with structural reform and enhanced collaboration represent the best response to the pandemic," he said.

APEC senior officials have been mandated by ministers to consider how trade can help address the immediate crisis and help drive economic recovery across the region.

This encompasses work to ensure vaccine manufacturing, supply, and distribution; support global vaccine-sharing efforts; and address barriers to the flow of essential goods and services that can help address the pandemic in a bid to ensure that the region’s health systems cover all people.

A recent economic update by the APEC Policy Support Unit showed that recovery is still heavily dependent on the progress and distribution of vaccination across the region. Despite varied rollouts, positive economic growth of 6.4 percent is projected for APEC this year.

APEC policy groups and senior officials reported on progress made to realize the 2020 Ministers’ Responsible for Trade Declaration on Facilitating the Movement of Essential Goods, including work on vaccines and related goods and services, as well as medical supplies and digital trade.

"There are several initiatives that we would like to advance, including to modernize the list of environmental goods and services as a contribution to sustainability," Vitalis remarked.

Originally agreed in 2012 to reduce tariffs to no more than five percent, the APEC List of Environmental Goods covers 54 products that positively contribute to green growth and sustainable development.

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APEC remains the only intergovernmental body with an agreed list of environmental goods. Work is underway to consider the identification of environmental services as a complement to the ongoing work on goods.

"We are also working to find commonalities between the 21 member economies on how we can boost digital trade in the region through the internet and digital economy roadmap while at the same time addressing gaps that allow everyone to enjoy the benefits of this sector," he added.

Vitalis also highlighted New Zealand’s role, as host of APEC 2021, in converting the APEC vision of an open, dynamic, resilient, and peaceful Asia-Pacific community by 2040 —known as the Putrajaya Vision— into a program of work and implementation plan relevant to challenges that APEC economies face today and over the next two decades.

"There is rising protectionism across the world, which challenges all of us to rethink and lean in to support the fundamentals of regional economic integration and the international trade architecture," Vitalis stated.

"On top of that, the social license for trade policy and economic integration is increasingly under strain, as we witness the unequal impact of COVID-19 on women, small businesses, and Indigenous people," he added.

"As a region, we need to work together to ensure APEC effectively responds, not just to the immediate crisis but also to the longer-term need to build a sustainable and resilient regional economy that benefits everyone," he noted.

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Reporter: Yuni Arisandy Sinaga
Editor: Rahmad Nasution
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