Focussing on pandemic recovery

Danial Norjidi

Focus will shift towards economic and trade policies to strengthen recovery in responding to the economic impacts of COVID-19.

Three policy priorities have been announced for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in 2021 by New Zealand as incoming host of APEC, with a focus on responding to the economic impacts of COVID-19.

During the first virtual APEC meeting chaired by New Zealand, the APEC Informal Senior Officials’ Meeting on December 9–11, the incoming host highlighted its commitment to helping APEC chart its course for the next 20 years and organising its agenda on the priorities.

According to a press release, they include: economic and trade policies that strengthen recovery, with a focus on the right macroeconomic, microeconomic and trade policy; increasing inclusion and sustainability for recovery by building a better society for all people and generating a green recovery; and pursuing innovation and a digitally enabled recovery by accelerating the APEC region’s work in these areas.

Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern, who will chair APEC in 2021, said, “In the wake of the unprecedented health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19, it is clear that the immediate economic response to COVID-19 will dominate APEC discussions in 2021, but as we work to recover we also need to focus on building back better.”

“There has never been a more important time for the region to join, work, and grow together – to share, rebuild, and recover APEC’s growth trajectory.”

It was shared that economic activity in the APEC region is projected to contract by 2.5 per cent in 2020, the first time that the region’s economy will shrink in three decades.

“While growth is starting to recover, economic impacts will be felt for some time to come. I urge member economies to work together in the spirit of cooperation to address these challenges effectively,” added Ardern.

Representatives of the 21 APEC member economies attended the Informal Senior Officials’ Meeting, which included a symposium that brought together global thinkers on issues important to APEC, an informal plenary meeting and an informal retreat.

The symposium saw experts discuss macro-economic and fiscal responses to COVID-19 highlighting the importance of structural reform, digital economy, inclusive and sustainable growth and trade.

APEC Secretariat Executive Director Dr Rebecca Sta Maria said, “At the Informal Senior Officials’ Meeting each year, the APEC economies discuss and prioritise all of the work that will take place throughout the following APEC year.

“This week’s meeting has provided an opportunity for fresh discussions on the things that matter most to Asia-Pacific economies.

“New Zealand shared its host year priorities and there was broad agreement that much of the focus in the year ahead will be on COVID-19 and supporting the Asia-Pacific region’s economic response and recovery.”

New Zealand’s theme for APEC 2021 is “Join. Work. Grow. Together. Haumi ē, Hui ē, Tāiki ē”.

The theme is further elaborated on in the APEC 2021 media kit.

Under ‘Join together’, it is shared, “There has never been a more important time to join together as we plan for recovery from COVID-19, it is APEC, the most dynamic region in the world economy, that will help us all rebuild and recover”.

For ‘Work together’, it states, “Like never before, the scale of the challenges the world faces today requires us all to work together in the interests of the greater good. We will create an environment where differing points of view can be expressed, debate can take place, where fairness prevails and connections can be made.”

Under ‘Grow together’, it was explained, “The way we respond as a region to today’s challenges will be felt for generations to come. APEC 2021 New Zealand will be the start of reigniting growth and setting a plan for a long-lasting recovery for the entire region.”

As for ‘Haumi ē, Hui ē, Taiki ē’, it was shared, “Traditionally, building a waka (canoe) involved entire Māori communities working in harmony toward a common goal. These waka enabled Māori to traverse vast expanses of ocean. Throughout APEC 2021 we will reference the teamwork and collaboration required in building waka. The words haumi ē, hui ē, taiki ē describe the collaborative effort required to reach a common goal.”