Malaysia Is Leading A Key Agenda In Asia Pacific For 2020
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If you’re in the trade economy, you might have heard of the term APEC, but the average person might not be fully aware of what it’s for, who are the people involved, what are the decisions being made in this forum, and how these can affect our livelihoods.
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is a regional forum that was established way back in 1989.
Who Is Part Of APEC?
The 31st forum in 2020 is hosted again by Malaysia, as we are one of 21 member economies which include Russia, China, Vietnam, Singapore, Canada, the USA and Chile. Malaysia is actually one of the 12 founding APEC members as well.
Note: The word ‘economies’ is used to describe APEC members as APEC is predominantly concerned with trade and economic issues, with members engaging each other as economic entities. The APEC economies account for 60% of global gross domestic product (GDP) too.
What’s The Purpose Of APEC?
APEC’s goal is to create greater prosperity for the people with a balanced, inclusive, sustainable, innovative and secure growth through economic acceleration, with a focus on the Asia Pacific region.
An example of what APEC has done thus far for the participating economies can be seen through the ‘Bogor Goals’ initiative, which started in 1994. Bogor Goals’ intention was to reduce trade barriers and promote the free flow of goods and services between the 21 APEC economies.
Because of that, tariff rates are cheaper and many sectors in Malaysia are open to foreign investment. And this also means that Malaysian citizens are currently enjoying the fruits of actions taken after previous APEC forums.
What’s This Year’s APEC Agenda?
For APEC 2020, Malaysia is hosting it with an agenda that focuses on ‘Optimising Human Potential towards a Resilient Future Of Shared Prosperity Pivot, Prioritise and Progress.
The aim of shared prosperity is to build a nation with an inclusive economy so that no one is left behind, which is a huge feat in itself. To move Malaysia towards the agenda, they’re focusing on three important priorities.
1. Improve Trade And Investment Narratives
Other APEC economies play a big part in Malaysia because they account to more than 80% of our country’s trade, and they make up 70% of foreign investment in Malaysia’s manufacturing sector too.
The Bogor Goals is reaching its maturity in 2020. Since they were put on the table in 1994, we’ve seen the reduction of the number of poor people in the region by half a billion.
Moving forward, member economies have to now determine what are their next steps to continue what the Bogor Goals started, and setting a new post-2020 vision.
As a practical example, since 2016, customs duties on 115 tariff lines have been reduced or eliminated.
In the next few years, we should be looking at what other tariffs can be reduced so that we can make our country’s exports more competitive abroad.
While GDP plays a big part in a country’s indication of growth, Malaysia wants to move beyond just using GDP to showcase a country’s growth.
Take for example, the impact of the digital economy. Because it easily transcends borders and takes place in a non-physical space, most of it is not measurable through GDP.
While we acknowledge that Economies may need to implement emergency measures designed to address COVID-19 challenges, we reiterate our commitment to work to facilitate the flow of essential goods and services, enhance connectivity by strengthening supply chains resilience, and minimise disruptions to trade in medical goods, food and agriculture products, in order to fight the pandemic.
Statement by Ministers Responsible for Trade during APEC 2020
2. Inclusive Participation Through Digital Economy And Technology
Technology has no doubt improved many Malaysian’s lives. But without the proper application of tech in the economy, it might widen the socio-economic gap in a nation.
We know that many startups in Malaysia have massive plans to grow their revenue through tech. But, your mak cik kiah down the road who doesn’t even understand the concept of e-wallets would be missing out.
This is partly why Malaysia launched the e-Tunai Rakyat initiative not long ago to introduce citizens, no matter the age, to a digital solution.
Talking in the SME meeting, Dato’ Sri Dr Haji Wan Junaidi, Malaysia’s Minister of Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives implored APEC economies to collaborate.
Going digital is not an option, it has to be done. It is a necessity to survive.
Dato’ Sri Dr Haji Wan Junaidi on how SMEs can continue operating despite a pandemic
As for how the APEC economies can support this notion, they highlighted policymakers should introduce lower data costs, promote regional cooperation and even help businesses overcome the digital divide and onboarding.
With Malaysia’s focus on digital tech, the benefits we reap from technological investment needs to help all and not just a fraction of the society.
Speaking of impacting all parts of society, it was revealed during the APEC Women and the Economy Forum (WEF) that the pandemic has actually aggravated the pre-existing economic and social inequality for women.
And women actually make up the majority of workers and entrepreneurs in SMEs.
The takeaway? Policymakers in each APEC economy need to adopt gender-responsive approaches and implement policies that target women’s economic empowerment.
It’s basically about providing equal access to resources and opportunities to both women and girls in this economy.
3. Drive Innovative Sustainability
For the past year or so, we’ve seen a rise of consumers paying more attention to where their goods are sourced and how they’re made.
From the #taknakstraw movement to a greater awareness of the environmental harm of fast fashion, consumers are willing to support businesses that put an emphasis on sustainability. Large brands are also coming onboard this movement.
One of the key points of APEC 2020’s discussions is about fostering innovations in renewable energy, waste management and even recycling strategies, which are defined as the circular economy.
Hairil Yahri Yaacob, the Deputy Secretary-General of MITI said: “APEC in the past has been shying away from these issues, openly citing that these are not economic issues. What we have to realise is that there is opportunity directly linked to sustainability.”
While the fruits of this year’s APEC might not be seen immediately, just like the Bogor Goals, they’ve previously made an impact in the livelihoods of citizens in this region.