KUALA LUMPUR: Apec economies should announce a standstill on all new trade-restrictive measures for the rest of this year and agree on concrete actions in reducing protectionism to combat the grave challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Saving lives is obviously what matters most right now,” said the chair of the Apec Business Advisory Council (Abac), Rohana Mahmood.
However, collaboration across the region on the knowledge and tools needed to combat the health impacts and mitigate the most severe economic consequences in the short term are equally important, she said in a press statement here today.
Abac, according to her, has written to Apec trade and foreign ministers urging them to lead the way in removing barriers to trade in the essential tools needed to fight the pandemic, including medical equipment, medicines and basic protective items such as soap, disinfectant and personal protective equipment.
“Complementing this effort, economies should facilitate trade in these critical supplies by simplifying and expediting border procedures.
“They should relax the rules to allow essential workers, including medical professionals, to move across borders to serve the areas of greatest need.
“Underpinning all of this, Apec economies should, of course, share their experiences in acting to contain the pandemic, exchange data and research, and collaborate on public health measures.
“The impact on workers, businesses and supply chains are already severe.
“We are especially concerned about small businesses, the self-employed and those in the informal economy, who are ill-equipped to withstand these impacts.
“We call on ministers to share ideas and collaborate on approaches to address the rapid rise in unemployment, bankruptcies and other business challenges.
“Our most vulnerable communities need to be able to access food and other essential household products.
“Our businesses need to have the confidence to re-invest and rebuild our economies. Protectionism of any sort impedes the road to recovery,” the chair added.
Underpinning all these efforts, Abac called on Apec economies to make the fullest possible use of digital technologies and connectivity, to collaborate effectively across economies and enable some level of economic activity to continue.
“Access to resilient digital infrastructure such as broadband, including in emerging economies, is essential. So is minimising barriers to cross border data flows,” she said.
“There is no precedent for the global shutdown we are now experiencing and no guidebook to assist us as we recover.
“So, it is critical that Apec economies work collaboratively to address the immediate challenges and to plan for reopening of our borders as soon as possible.”