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ABAC to Trade Ministers: Pandemic remains the top priority

At the virtual Dialogue with APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) last June 4, the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) formally presented its Letter and Report to the Ministers.

ABAC and the MRT each discussed key themes in the Dialogue’s three breakout sessions: (1) regional economic integration, (2) economic responses to COVID-19, and (3) resilience and building back better.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez and ABAC Philippines Chair Tomas Alcantara joined the second breakout group. ABAC members and APEC Ministers looked at the trade implications of the public health response to the pandemic. 

Secretary Lopez underscored the critical role of trade in ensuring equitable access and fast distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and related goods, especially for the developing and the least developed economies. “The Philippines is among the many APEC economies which did not impose export controls and prohibitions on essential goods. This is because we believe in an open market, and that we see  the need to work together to effectively address these challenges,” stressed the trade minister. 

In the Philippines, the business community has been actively supporting the government in securing the much needed COVID vaccine doses for the target population. Large corporations and MSMEs have been ordering vaccines not just for their respective workers but for donation to the communities.  The private sector is coordinating with local governments to help ramp up the inoculation drive.

“We need to work together and act fast to achieve herd immunity,” said ABAC Philippines chair Tomas Alcantara. “Meanwhile, we must continue to capacitate businesses and our people to better navigate the economy in the new normal, and make it more resilient to future shocks.”

(clockwise from top) ABAC 2021 Chair Rachel Taulelei, APEC 2021 MRT Chair Damien O’Connor, ABAC Philippines Chair Tomas Alcantara, Philippine Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez with APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade and ABAC members.

In her remarks, ABAC 2021 chair Rachel Taulelei called on APEC economies to take action as the pandemic must remain our highest priority, and that there is no perfect timing to address the pressing challenges of the region. “We are now in the worst of the worst of times – and that does require boldness, ambition and commitment,” Taulelei added.

For New Zealand’s Minister for Trade and Export Growth, Damien O’Connor who is also the 2021 Chair of the APEC MRT Meeting, the business community was instrumental in achieving massive growth with regards to free, fair and open trade in the Asia-Pacific. The minister challenged the region’s business leaders on “how we can work together to defeat COVID-19, how we can sustain our economies through the pandemic and then build economies that are more sustainable, more inclusive.”