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The 29th PECC General Meeting concluded on 3rd November 2022. The event was hosted by the Thailand National Committee of the Pacific Economic Council (TNCPEC) and the International Study Centre of the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the theme of “Asia Pacific beyond Thailand APEC 2022”. The conference provided insights and in-depth discussions on 3 key themes:
1. The disruption affecting APEC connectivity during 2016-2022
2. Trends of trade and investment liberalization / restrictions of APEC economies beyond 2022
3. APEC cooperation to enhance the development of the BCG Economy; impact on climate change
Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, H.E. Mr. Don Pramudwinai opened the event with a keynote address. He highlighted on the challenging global issues on food, fuel, and financial crises that are faced by many economies. He underscored that the shifting of geo-politics caused adversities for most economies to undertake transformative changes, particularly towards sustainable growth, assuring security, healthcare, food and reducing income inequality. He expressed his confidence that the region has the ability to overcome these challenges. He added, “For economic development and cooperation to take place, there must be peace and stability in the region.”
Minister Pramudwinai then underlined the progress of regional cooperation in the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) agenda, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). He highlighted the United National General Assembly meeting last September, where most members “adopted a more or less common agenda – that resilience and diversification are urgently needed in the supply chains and material sourcing”. He accentuated the need to strengthen trade liberalization and the necessity for more inclusive social protection systems in order to overcome the non-tariff barriers.
Minister Pramudwinai stressed the importance of harnessing digitalization and innovation to address the impacts of COVID and climate change. He added that in achieving APEC 2022 Theme of “Open. Connect. Balance.” apart from promoting the Bio-Circular-Green (BCG) Economy, “It’s also important to look beyond short-term recovery, towards longer-term goals such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Putrajaya Vision. All sectors of the economy should therefore be geared towards this whole-of-society change in mindset and lifestyles.”
Amb Zhan Yongxin, International Co-Chair of PECC highlighted on the fragility and unsteadiness of the global and economic recovery due to the global pandemic situation. He said, “As we face various global challenges, our best strategy is to stick together and work closely with each other to navigate the storm and steer towards the bright future.” Amb Zhan also underscored PECC’s role as a stakeholder of the region and said “PECC should also work towards this goal and achieve more liberal and facilitated trade and investment and maintain stability and safety of supply chain in the world.”
Dr Narongchai Akrasanee, Chair of TNCPEC said that the theme of the General meeting, “Asia-Pacific Economic Beyond APEC 2022” reflected concerns on economic cooperation and commitment to open regionalism in the region. Through the discussions in the General Meeting, Dr Akrasanee said that disruptions of connectivity due to the COVID19 pandemic and geopolitical situation could still curtail “International Production networks even though they have proved quite resilient”. He observed that some economies are able to manage disruptions by digital technology.
On reinventing trade and investment, Dr Akrasanee mentioned that there is a need for cooperation and collaboration as the region is facing “trust deficit” issues. He suggested that PECC and APEC develop “schemes for the member economies to help manage the changing global economic order particularly on energy and finance, and also evolving trade patterns in core intermediate goods.” Towards the end, Dr Akrasanee underscored that “the meeting sees values in continuing APEC economic cooperation schemes despite the changing geopolitics, schemes of concerted unilateral actions and concerted pluralism. All schemes, reinforced by digital technology should eventually lead to the adoption and functioning of the Sustainability Theory of Value.”
In closing the PECC General Meeting, Dr Richard Cantor, International Co-Chair of PECC highlighted that despite the challenges faced by the region particularly on the rise of trade restrictions and geopolitical threats to open markets, there are “some areas where we can still hope for incremental progress such as improved logistics through common digital standards where we have an opportunity to improve connectivity without the need to tackle to more sensitive areas like trade barriers.” He underscored the PECC State of the Region 2022 survey findings together with the meeting discussions coincide with agreement that APEC leaders should focus on ameliorating the geopolitical trade complex in the region.