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APEC trade ministers reaffirm open, rules-based trade flows

Trade is essential to the economies of Southeast Asia. Our region is highly dependent on an open flow of rules-based commerce and cross-border investment to drive economic growth and improve livelihoods. At their recent virtual ministerial meeting, the trade ministers of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) reaffirmed the “the importance of a free, open, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent and predictable trade and investment environment to drive economic recovery at such a challenging time.”

Countering the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact requires a highly coordinated approach from our governments, businesses and societies. No country can address these challenges on their own. We need to work together to ensure the flow of essential goods and services, to strengthen the resilience of regional and global supply chains, and to minimize disruptions to commerce across our borders in medical goods, food and agriculture products.

The APEC ministers recognized the importance of reducing barriers to trade and investment at this critical time. Barriers can come in many forms, such as tariffs, embargoes and import quotas that make it more expensive to move goods across borders. These barriers can also include violations of intellectual property rules, which stifles innovation in critical areas such and life-saving medicines.

Every day, medical research around the world is bringing us closer to safe and effective vaccines and treatments to counter COVID-19 – a critical step not only to address our collective health crisis but also to jump start economies. The world is witnessing unprecedented cooperation between world-class companies, research institutes, governments and multilateral organizations to this end.

The rules put in place to promote trade, investment and innovation are more important now than ever to the people of Southeast Asia. The APEC trade ministers acknowledged the “importance of transparent and non-discriminatory, agreed upon rules in the WTO, which enhance market predictability and enable business confidence, as well as allowing trade to flow.” When the APEC leaders meet in November, they should reaffirm these principles.

This is the best way to mitigate both the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and put Southeast Asia on path of resilient, sustainable and inclusive recovery.

Click here to read the full APEC trade ministers’ joint statement.

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