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People, place and prosperity: Asia-Pacific business community’s call to action

Philippine representatives to the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) – Sabin Aboitiz, Joanne de Asis and Bill Luz participated in the first ABAC meeting (virtual) for 2021, under the chairmanship of New Zealand. This year’s ABAC theme, “People, Place and Prosperity” builds on the Council’s COVID-19 agenda of addressing the socio-economic impact of the pandemic towards economic recovery. 

Relevant priorities for ABAC Philippines include digital innovation, particularly on the new future-of-work, and services competitiveness, especially tourism, as well as sustainability specifically the issues on food security and energy security. ABAC Philippines would be leading the ABAC taskforce on disaster recovery planning and risk management, with Bill Luz as the convenor.


Business leaders from 21 Asia-Pacific economies met virtually this week to discuss how to work together to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and rebuild the region’s economies.

“We are living through the crisis of a century and strength comes from our determination to work together,” said the Chair of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), Rachel Taulelei.

“Overcoming the current adversity, whether restoring public health, reopening borders, securing economic recovery or achieving more equitable communities, demands constructive, creative and above all collaborative approaches,” Ms Taulelei added. 

“The need for this kind of coordinated thinking has been brought home very vividly by the spectre of vaccine export restrictions; it remains true, as it has been since the beginning of this crisis, that we all remain vulnerable if any of us remains vulnerable,” Ms Taulelei warned.

Ms Taulelei was commenting after the first ABAC meeting of 2021, which was opened with an address from the Prime Minister, Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern.

“Our focus this year in ABAC is on people, place and prosperity – in the Māori language, tāngata, taiao, me te taurikura.  These three elements are all essential to creating the kind of societies we want to live in.

“Inclusion for all people is our North Star – so we will be working on how to ensure access for all to COVID vaccinations, essential goods and food supplies; how small businesses can operate on a level playing field; and how to empower women and indigenous populations for success.

Place is about safeguarding our planet.   We aspire to lead on climate change.  We will be looking for ways to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy, through boosting renewable energy, encouraging innovation and by weaning ourselves off environmentally-harmful subsidies,” Ms Taulelei explained.

“And achieving a prosperous region, especially after the body-blows of 2020, demands that most fundamental of APEC goals – free and open markets.  That means building a seamless Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, and championing the World Trade Organisation, including initiatives to keep supply chains functioning and trade flowing as well as the reopening of borders and resumption of travel that will revive the region’s economic growth.”

Underscoring all of this is the digital economy, the Chair noted.  “Digital tools are fundamental to resilience, sustainability and inclusion,” Rachel Taulelei observed.  “Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence can unleash even greater opportunities – but we need a trusted, interoperable enabling environment to realise that potential.”

Ms Taulelei noted that the APEC Putrajaya Vision, agreed by APEC Leaders late last year, provided an imperative to act.  

“Despite – or perhaps because of, the pandemic – we have the highest possible ambitions for this year.  We cannot emerge unchanged from COVID; but nor should we want to.   The Vision calls for an open, dynamic, resilient and peaceful Asia-Pacific community by 2040.   The road to get there will not be easy.  But the business of business is solving problems – and ABAC is ready and eager for the challenge,” Ms Taulelei concluded.