Leaders of 21 Apec economies to discuss trade at meeting

How to keep investments flowing amid pandemic among topics at virtual session tomorrow

A billboard in Sepang marking the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit, which is chaired by Malaysia this year. Apec economies are working with Malaysia to finalise two outcome documents for tomorrow's virtual Economic Leaders' Meeting: th
A billboard in Sepang marking the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit, which is chaired by Malaysia this year. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Leaders from 21 Asia-Pacific economies, including Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, will meet virtually tomorrow to discuss ways to keep trade and investments flowing amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chaired by Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, the 27th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Economic Leaders' Meeting comes after last year's chair, Chile, cancelled it amid widespread protests and riots in the country.

Last year's meeting was to have been the occasion when now-outgoing US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping would sign an interim agreement to end the United States-China trade war.

But that was not to be.

The unrest in Chile eventually led to about 7,000 arrests and losses of about US$1.4 billion (S$1.88 billion) for the country's businesses. A major United Nations COP25 climate summit Chile was to have hosted was also called off.

The pandemic saw almost all Apec meetings held virtually this year under Malaysia's chairmanship of the grouping, its second since 1998.

The theme of the meetings is Optimising Human Potential Towards a Future of Shared Prosperity: Pivot. Prioritise. Progress.

The three priority areas are: improving the narrative of trade and investment; inclusive economic participation through digital economy and technology; and driving innovative sustainability.

Apec economies are working closely with Malaysia to finalise two outcome documents for the Economic Leaders' Meeting: the Leaders' Declaration and the Post-2020 Vision which will guide Apec's work in the next 20 years.

Separately, the Apec CEO Dialogues held today and tomorrow will discuss priorities in the aftermath of the pandemic.

The dialogues involve political leaders and business executives who form the Apec Business Advisory Council, a private sector body formed in 1995.

They meet four times a year to advise Apec leaders on the priorities and concerns of companies in the region.

Each of the 21 Apec leaders can nominate up to three senior business executives to take part.

The trio from Singapore are Singapore Business Federation chief executive Ho Meng Kit, Accenture Singapore senior managing director Teo Lay Lim and Standard Chartered Singapore head of commercial banking Goh Beng Kim.

Speakers at the dialogues include PM Lee, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg.

The Apec economies represent 60 per cent of the world's gross domestic product and 48 per cent of global trade.

They account for a significant proportion - more than three-quarters - of Singapore's global trade in goods and services last year.

The grouping works on the basis of consensus, and its targets and goals are voluntary and non-binding.

It seeks to promote deeper regional economic integration, and greater trade and investment facilitation and liberalisation. It is also looking into new areas, like the digital economy, and has evolved to address other concerns such as health, agriculture and energy.

PM Lee will be joined at the meetings this week by officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Trade and Industry.

The United States has yet to announce who will represent it at this year's event. It is understood that Mr Trump, who is disputing his election loss to Mr Joe Biden, will not be attending.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2020, with the headline 'Leaders of 21 Apec economies to discuss trade at meeting'. Print Edition | Subscribe