Economic integration

COVID challenges underscore need to kick-start economic integration (APEC)

Jakarta (ANTARA) – There is no better time than now for APEC members to reinvigorate the work of Asia-Pacific integration and bring new energy to the long-term prospect of a Asia-Pacific Free Trade Area (FTAAP).

APEC’s Policy Support Unit made the statement in a new guidance note.

“The pandemic and the aftermath of COVID-19 have only underscored the importance of regional economic integration,” APEC Policy Support Unit Director Denis Hew said in a statement. published by the APEC Secretariat and received here on Saturday.

“APEC policymakers need to address emerging trade-related issues and challenges in order to achieve deeper regional economic integration,” Hew explained.

Meanwhile, a senior analyst with the APEC Policy Support Unit, Carlos Kuriyama, who is also the author of the guidance note, said it is not enough for governments to take action. decisive at the national level when the world is faced with a pandemic.

International collaboration must be part of the solution, he stressed.

“Most importantly, any regional integration agenda, including free and/or regional trade agreements, could help overcome pandemic-related challenges,” Kuriyama added.

The report identifies six main challenges affecting trade that are deemed most critical, namely disruption of access to essential goods, disruption of trade in services, supply chain logistics challenges, digital transformation , transparency and regulatory bottlenecks affecting trade in essential goods.

Although some of these disruptions were much more severe during the first phase of the pandemic, the challenges persist.

For example, some of the export restrictions on essential goods are still in place, trade in services has yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels, and cross-border restrictions on data have increased globally.

“We need to solve bottlenecks in supply chain logistics. Delays in ship arrivals have increased by almost 50% since the start of the pandemic and freight rates for 40ft long containers soared over 600%,” Kuriyama said.

The policy brief pointed out that APEC, as an incubator of ideas, could take these challenges into account and integrate new topics related to trade in goods, services, trade facilitation and digital issues, among others, in the work program of the FTAAP.

Member economies could come together and collectively pledge not to apply restrictions on the export of essential goods and ensure their availability for commercial purchase, Kuriyama suggested.

They could also ensure that airports, ports, customs and border facilities remain operational during pandemics.

“There is also a need for APEC economies to facilitate the movement of essential workers, including air crew and maritime seafarers across borders,” he said.

“Border cooperation and technical assistance should be strengthened by adapting modern technologies and paperless procedures,” he added.

Digitization is important for the future of work and commerce. According to the report, modern trade rules for data privacy, data localization, cross-border data flows and e-commerce – such as consumer protection, e-payments and e-signatures, among others – are needed to promote the digital economy.

“As the pandemic has accelerated structural changes in the economy, APEC is in a position to influence the global trade agenda,” Kuriyama said.

“APEC promotes the resilience of economies by undertaking collective initiatives, including capacity building activities, in areas of growing interest. We must seize this momentum to achieve a more inclusive and sustainable future,” he added.

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