Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Int'l cooperation needed to find post-pandemic global solutions, says ABAC Executive Director Stephen Jacobi

Xinhua

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Global cooperation is needed in finding solutions to post-pandemic global problems, said a New Zealand APEC expert ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting.

Stephen Jacobi, Executive Director of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) and the New Zealand International Business Forum, was looking forward to a strong commitment for regional co-operation from APEC Economic Leaders when he talked to Xinhua in an exclusive interview.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the regional economy, health and livelihood, and hit some economies harder than others, especially the least developed ones. However, there are positive signs for economic recovery and freer trade, said Jacobi.

"Even once the pandemic is contained, it will take some time for global trade to recover, but the signs of growth are already being seen.

"The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the world's largest trade deal so far, has been concluded and would enter into force on Jan. 1, 2022. The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) seems set to expand. New Zealand and China agreed on an upgrade to our successful free trade agreement. The broader goal of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) is still very much a vision of the APEC business community," said Jacobi.

In July, the APEC Economic Leaders' informal meeting has raised the importance of international cooperation in pandemic response, trade conversation, inclusion, and sustainability. Jacobi is hopeful to see a strong commitment from the Leaders in the coming summit.

"Ministers have made good progress in developing the initiatives started by Leaders at their informal meeting. We are hopeful of a strong statement of support for the WTO, a commitment to continue exploring FTAAP, and some useful language on climate change, and inclusion of disadvantaged groups in the region's economy," said Jacobi.

Bearing the Putrajaya Vision 2040 Implementation Plan in mind, Jacobi expected to see three major themes for the Economic Leaders' meeting, the pandemic response, inclusive and sustainable growth, and the preregistration of APEC and the multilateral system.

Jacobi noted that supply chains have come under significant pressure during the pandemic. "Applying digital processes to supply chain management clearly is one way of mitigating the risks of disruption. In this context, initiatives focusing on making supply chains work better are very welcome.  They reflect the fact that it is only by working together that we will find solutions to the problems caused by the pandemic," he added.

Jacobi believed the solution to all global problems is global co-operation.

Climate change is an even bigger problem facing humanity than COVID-19.  The climate crisis can only be addressed by economies working together.  The future of the planet itself is at stake. At a time like this, APEC's value becomes even more evident, he said.

"The solutions to global problems require global co-operation, and APEC is where the region needs to come together to find those solutions regardless of economic size and scale and geopolitical difference," said Jacobi.

Talking about China's economic recovery, Jacobi saw broader opportunities for regional economic growth.

"China's economy is recovering strongly, and China continues to be an engine for growth in the region, despite the ongoing effects of the pandemic. The continuing process of economic reform and opening-up should continue to boost China's economic prospects. Once the country can open again to visitors, we should see new opportunities develop for trade and investment", said Jacobi.

Jacobi also welcomed China's application for CPTPP membership, which he thinks will facilitate the CPTPP as a mechanism for global co-operation.

"China's bid to join CPTPP has created a lot of interest in APEC and should be widely welcomed," said Jacobi.

He believed that the CPTPP membership should be seen in the context of China's continuing economic reform.

Products from New Zealand and Vanuatu are ready to be shipped to the the fourth China International Import Expo (CIIE) from the Auckland port in New Zealand, Sept. 25, 2021. (Xinhua)

CPTPP is an ambitious and high-quality agreement. Where China may find it difficult to meet some of CPTPP's provisions, member economies now have the opportunity to engage positively in dialogue with the Chinese authorities to discuss how these might be implemented over time, said Jacobi.

"This sort of positive engagement is much to be preferred to trade wars and strategic competition. CPTPP thus provides a mechanism to reduce geopolitical tensions and to focus on areas where economies can co-operate successfully."

APEC is a regional economic forum established in 1989 to leverage the growing interdependence of the Asia-Pacific. APEC's 21 members aim to create greater prosperity for the people of the region by promoting balanced, inclusive, sustainable, innovative and secure growth by accelerating regional economic integration.

APEC member economies together account for about 3 billion people, 50 percent of global trade and 60 percent of the world's total GDP.

The 2021 APEC Economic Leaders' Week commenced on Nov. 8 and will culminate with the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting on Nov. 12-13.

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