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On behalf of the members of the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council, it is our great pleasure to present our 17th annual State of the Region report. The objective of this report is to provide an assessment of the key issues affecting the region and the challenges to creating stronger and deeper ties across the region. To do so we are indebted to the over 700 respondents to our annual survey who took the time to share with us their views. We stress that this is not a survey of public opinion, but of the regional policy community – stakeholders from business; government; academia; media and civil society. We have made a few changes to how we undertake the report: the first is that we have done the survey at the end of the 1st quarter instead of during the 3rd quarter; second we have tried to present our survey findings at a more granular level, focusing on differences in views among different stakeholders, sub-regions and genders.

We do so to help identify areas of work where more community building and dialogue is required and consider how different approaches to similar problems are taken. As we emphasized last year, we again found that differences in views among stakeholders have been far smaller than those among different sub-regions. This points to the value of enhanced stakeholder engagement in regional policy-making as APEC Leaders have instructed in the Aotearoa Plan of Action. Importantly while we found that respondents overwhelmingly thought that free and open trade had an positive impact on their economies, 25 percent of respondents also thought trade with other economies had a major on inequality (the question did not specify the direction of the impact – whether it increased or decreased inequality, it was interpreted as increasing inequality). It is therefore incumbent on us to ensure that the benefits of trade are not only visible but also extended to all stakeholders. We recall that the last time we held our General Meeting in the United States, also when it last hosted APEC, when asked what a community such as ours in the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council could do, then Secretary of Commerce highlighted two things: (1) to get the word out that 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside the United States; and that (2) encourage particularly small and medium-sized companies to understand that there’s a robust global market out there that’s available to them; and (3) help to set the record straight on how trade has helped and where, occasionally, trade has been challenging in certain sectors. At the same meeting then US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and current Deputy Assistant to the President and Coordinator for the Indo-Pacific, Kurt Campbell emphasized the need to build trust and invest in institutions. As much as the environment has changed since 2011, these issues remain critical to achieving the vision of an “open, dynamic, resilient and peaceful Asia-Pacific community by 2040, for the prosperity of all our people” as laid out in the Putrajaya Vision.

We welcome the emphasis placed this year on “Creating a Resilient and Sustainable Future for All. ” The challenges we face in confronting the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic and rising concerns over climate change should help to bring us together to find solutions to shared problems. Moreover, as the pandemic accelerated the adoption of digital technologies we need to ensure that new divides are not created, whether through lack of hard or soft infrastructure. We note the continued concerns expressed by stakeholders on the risk that fragmentation poses to economic growth. Addressing this will involve rebuilding trust both among and within our economies.

We hope that this report will help to shed light on how stakeholders perceive challenges, differences among them, and therefore priorities for more dialogue.



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