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MESSAGE FROM THE CO-CHAIRS OF PECC
In response to the Covid-19 crisis, the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council issued a special State of the Region report on the impact of the crisis earlier this year based on a survey of regional policy experts and stakeholders. This report updates the findings of that publication.
This year was supposed to mark a milestone for the region, when Asia-Pacific economies would assess progress made towards the goals of free and open trade in the region and decide on a new vision to drive cooperation and growth for the future. However, just as momentum was building in that process, the Covid-19 pandemic struck and policy-makers rightly focused their attention on dealing with the pressing issue of how to deal with the health, human, and economic crisis confronting our region.
Even now as some of our economies have been able to stem infection rates and are able to exit from lockdowns, others are seeing second waves or even third waves of infections. While economic forecasts are improving, unprecedented government support is holding up aggregate demand. A key concern that arose from our May survey was weak growth expectations over the coming months and years and the impact that would have on investment and consumer spending. We explore that theme in further depth in this report and the actions that can be taken to address the scarring that has and continues to take place.
In our earlier report we argued that that as the region looks beyond the pandemic to an economic recovery, the post-2020 vision, when endorsed by APEC leaders, can provide a long-term strategic framework for regional governments and stakeholders to plan for the future. Without such a framework there is a risk that the recovery will be much slower than need be, opportunities to sustain reform will not be taken, inefficient policies adopted for short term goals will remain stuck in place, and investment plans put on hold.
A post-2020 vision needs to provide a strong signal to businesses and consumers of a commitment to growth and stability. In this report we address what some of those signals might be. We address in particular the challenges facing the WTO and the need for cooperation on the digital economy. We underscore that the vision should address the issues that beset the region prior to the pandemic that were outlined in our task force report on the post-2020 vision. The PECC vision for the region was a simple one:
“An Asia-Pacific community of open interconnected, and innovative economies cooperating to
deliver opportunity, prosperity and a sustainable future to all their peoples.”
How it is achieved is more complex, but when we surveyed stakeholders on the future of regional cooperation, out of a list of all of 11 topics that cover the major issues addressed by regional cooperation ranging the multilateral trading system, a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, structural reform, the digital economy, to sustainability and inclusion, the most important issue was “robust dialogue and effective cooperation among member economies. This underscores the value of APEC’s non-binding approach and focus on cooperation. The pandemic has only highlighted even more the need for policymakers, scientists, doctors, and businesses – in short broad groups of stakeholders to work together cooperatively to solve
issues of mutual concern. Even now as vaccines are on the verge of entering the market, issues of distribution and logistics need to be addressed.
We thank the Editorial Committee of the State of the Region project for their efforts in providing guidance and advice for the project. And we especially express our appreciation to Mr Eduardo Pedrosa, Secretary General of PECC and Coordinator of State of Region Report and Prof Christopher Findlay, Vice-Chair of the Australian PECC Committee for writing this report and Ambassador Jonathan Fried and Dr Peter Lovelock for their contributions.