November 21, 2022
BANGKOK – From the moment that Asia-Pacific leaders arrived in Bangkok for the first in-person APEC Economic Leaders’ Week in four years, the focus has been on how members in the grouping can facilitate free and open trade and investment, reconnect the region, and promote sustainable economic growth.
These priorities featured prominently in the discussions when the leaders came together on Friday for the opening of the 29th APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in the Thai capital.
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, the 2022 chair of the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting, spoke of the need for the 21-member group to draw on strength through unity in order to address common challenges.
“We cannot continue doing business as usual. We need to shift our mindset and change the way we live and do business,” Prayut said in his address at the opening ceremony.
As the host of APEC 2022, Thailand has initiated work on the Bangkok Goals, which will be a comprehensive framework to advance APEC’s sustainability agenda in a bold and ambitious manner based on the bio-circular-green, or BCG, economy model.
Prayut pointed to the BCG model that Thailand has adopted as a domestic strategy to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and serve as a blueprint for long-term development.
“We introduced the BCG economy model into the APEC conversation as an approach to achieve sustainability as well as our climate objectives, reinforcing APEC’s relevance in guiding the region forward amid the current pressing challenges,” the prime minister said.
At the meeting, Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc called on APEC members to iron out differences, increase dialogue, and coordinate actions for the sake of common interests.
Phuc said an Asia-Pacific of peace, stability, cooperation, prosperity, and sustainable development is a goal and a common responsibility that requires joint efforts by all the member economies.
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told the leaders that APEC members must work together to promote sustainable and inclusive growth.
Lee said lower-income households and small — and medium-sized enterprises will be hit the hardest amid geopolitical tensions, inflation, and supply chain disruptions.
APEC members should work together to improve the resilience and openness of global supply chains while creating an environment that supports supply chain efficiency, connectivity and certainty, Lee said.
The APEC Economic Leaders’ Week began on Monday and the Senior Officials’ Meeting was held until Wednesday.
On Thursday, the 33rd APEC Ministerial Meeting concluded after discussions focused on APEC 2022’s theme of “Open. Connect. Balance.”
APEC ministers submitted the Bangkok Goals on BCG Economy for leaders’ endorsement as a road map to advance the grouping’s sustainability agenda and to serve as a legacy of Thailand’s APEC host year.
Other leaders echoed Prayut’s emphasis on Putrajaya Vision 2040, a mission statement adopted in 2020 for APEC highlighted as:”Our vision is an open, dynamic, resilient and peaceful Asia-Pacific community by 2040, for the prosperity of all our people and future generations.”
In 2021, the 21 APEC member economies developed the Aotearoa Plan of Action, to implement Putrajaya Vision 2040.
“APEC must look beyond recovery from the pandemic and toward rejuvenating and revitalizing the environment, to boost resilience and ensure a more inclusive and sustainable growth,” Prayut said on Friday.
The opening day of the economic leaders meeting also saw an emergency meeting held by the leaders of the United States, the Republic of Korea, Japan and allied countries.
The meeting was called to discuss a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile fired by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea into the sea.
US Vice-President Kamala Harris said the DPRK’s actions were “destabilizing for security in the region”, without mentioning US-led joint military exercises with Japan and the ROK near the Korean Peninsula.
Leaders of APEC economies also engaged in a series of bilateral meetings on the sidelines.
The APEC members comprise Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, China, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, the United States, and Vietnam, as well as Chinese Taipei and China’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.