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APEC to Strengthen Supply Chains, Promote Digital Trade for Recovery

Issued by the APEC Committee on Trade and Investment


Trade and investment officials from APEC member economies affirmed their commitment to safeguard the smooth flow of supply chains, remove business uncertainties to trade and accelerate work in the digital economy in a bid to fast-track the economic recovery resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a virtual meeting held last week across eight time zones, the APEC Committee on Trade and Investment pursued a strategic course of actions to optimize its work in addressing bottlenecks related to trade and investment.

“All APEC member economies are currently managing the unthinkable challenges brought by the pandemic,” said Krasna Bobenrieth, chair of the committee. “The Committee on Trade and Investment can be part of the solution by adjusting our ongoing work and initiatives to respond to COVID-19, as well as exploring new areas that can be incorporated to speed up the recovery process for member economies.”

Movement restrictions and closure of factories have disrupted the supply chain and exposed its vulnerability. Members highlighted the need to boost supply chains’ resiliency and connectivity by focusing on harmonization and modernization of custom procedures,  increasing the use of digital technologies and enhanced cross-border connectivity.

Trade facilitation is seen as one of the main instruments to accelerate recovery. Members pressed for the need to encourage and deepen the implementation rate of the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (WTO TFA). According to the APEC Policy Support Unit, wider implementation of the WTO TFA could result in an eight to 15 percent reduction of trade costs.

“It is clear that members expressed commitment to keep markets open and to avoid restrictive measures that can disrupt the trade of essentials good,” she explained. “Members also further explored ways to facilitate the trade of medical goods and other essential goods.”

Members also highlighted the urgency to enhance efforts in building, facilitating and promoting the capacity of micro, small and medium enterprises to integrate and participate in international trade through digital trade and inclusive policies. Further work on the development of the internet and digital economy will be undertaken by APEC’s recently established Digital Economy Steering Group.

The COVID-19 pandemic has restricted the movement of people in the region and further hinders the support for trade and investment activities. Members exchanged views on the importance of facilitating business travel and allowing some flexibility to continue commercial activities.

Bobenrieth believes that the committee can play a leading role in implementing the tasks mandated by APEC Ministers’ Responsible for Trade in their COVID-19 statement.

“Trade and investment are key components for economic growth and I am very encouraged by the constructive discussions and valuable exchange of ideas from member economies in this novel format,” she stated, adding that the committee currently has over 40 initiatives in its pipeline that can contribute to solve the current challenges.

Policy monitoring and information sharing mechanism are critical aspects for assisting policymakers across the region to develop sound policies. Members are committed to keep the communication lines open and to continue to seek progress to strengthen trade and supply chains and rejuvenate investment in APEC.

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