LANGKAWI: The APEC Informal Senior Official’s Meeting (ISOM) and Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) which was held in Langkawi this week, kicked-off more than 120 meetings which will be held in Malaysia as part of our host year of the APEC 2020 in Kuala Lumpur, in November next year.
Some 16,000 delegates are expected to make their way to Malaysia to attend these meetings in five cities around Malaysia, and Malaysia’s host year is also particularly significant as this is the second time we are hosting the event since 1998. Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who hosted in 1998, will also host APEC 2020.
The year 2020 also marks the end of the Bogor Goals, which means moving forward, the 21 APEC economies must draft the future of APEC beyond 2020.
On Monday, SOM chair Hairil Yahri Yaacob said Malaysia was taking over the role as the Chairman of APEC at the height of uncertainties in the global economy, and would embrace these challenges with a vision to ensure APEC 2020 is a success where benefits from trade, investment and economic cooperation are felt and enjoyed by its people.
This will be undertaken by redefining the role of trade and investment, from one that is solely for wealth creation, to one that is also able to deliver social and economic inclusivity.
He said this in his opening remarks of the three-day ISOM meeting which was held at the Langkawi International Convention Centre. The ISOM started with a Symposium on Priorities for APEC 2020, followed by a series of meetings.
Also present were APEC senior officials, APEC Secretariat executive director Tan Sri Dr Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria and APEC Business Advisory Council 2020 Chair Datuk Rohana Tan Sri Mahmood.
Around 312 delegates from APEC economies, federal ministries and agencies participated in the Symposium.
“We all can agree that globalisation and the Bogor Goals’ direction for free and open trade and investment in the region, had, to a certain extent, managed to put in motion effective actions to reduce barriers to trade and investment.
“After 30 years of its inception, the region’s economy grew from USD23.5 trillion in 1990 to USD66.2 trillion in 2018, an average of 3.7 percent per year."
He said there is a realisation among the APEC economies that the wealth created by trade and investment within the region has caused a wider disparity, leaving a large segment of the society behind, and requiring a fundamental change to the way we think about economics.
“It needs to be redesigned to suit the current situation by putting people at its core and pursuing inclusive and sustainable growth, with the assurance to leave no one behind. This is the objective of the Shared Prosperity philosophy that was introduced by Dr Mahathir at the CEO Summit in Papua New Guinea in 2018."
APEC 2020 will be guided by the theme, "Optimising Human Potential towards a Future of Shared Prosperity".
Through the identified priorities of "Improving the Narrative of Trade and Investment"; "Inclusive Economic Participation Through Digital Economy and Technology"; and "Driving Innovative Sustainability", Malaysia plans to bring all the economies together for an in-depth discussion towards delivering substantive and effective deliverables for APEC 2020.
Hairil said the concept of Shared Prosperity was nothing new to APEC economies as every economy has been undertaking policies to provide a better living for its citizens, and there are businesses already taking larger responsibility in contributing towards betterment of the society.
He added, In view of the impending maturity of the Bogor Goals in 2020, Malaysia has commenced the development process of APEC post-2020 Vision through a dedicated session involving all the Senior Officials. Throughout the host year, Malaysia will be organising special sessions in realising a Vision for APEC post-2020, that is relevant to the current scenario and in tandem with the well-being of APEC citizens.
Hairil also called for more inclusive economic participation, saying there was a a growing consensus among APEC economies that there is an urgent need to focus on people and to broaden opportunities across society.
“In 2017, the APEC Leaders’ came together and called for a more inclusive APEC community by 2030 and identify policy actions to ensure that the benefits from regional economic integrations are shared more evenly among and within the economies.
“Heeding this call, Malaysia will be pioneering programmes and initiatives in APEC that will focus on creating a more inclusive development especially for women, youth, Start-ups and aging society by harnessing technology and digital economy,” he added.
He remarked that apart from digital disruption, there was growing concern with sustainability related issues including the environment and climate change.
“As you all may be aware, for more than a year, children and young people from around the world have been striking for the climate. The initiator for this is Greta Thunberg, a 16-year old Swedish girl that has taken the world by storm, and bravely criticised world leaders about the real issue out there on climate change.
“APEC in the past has been shying away from discussing all these issues openly citing that these are not economic issues. What we have to realise it that there is opportunity cost directly linked to sustainability, especially economic value. Therefore, Sustainability will become an integral discussion for APEC 2020 and Malaysia will focus on optimal resource management to minimise the adverse impacts on the environment through innovative practises,” he said.
Rebecca said APEC 2020 serves as a platform for the sharing of ideas which will be translated to enhance the well-being of individuals.
“The principle of shared prosperity is not only relevant, but is also a new direction in economic growth without alienating anyone from the current flow of development. This can be seen from the APEC 2019 Digital Prosperity Award which demonstrates how this initiative can impact the rural community in particular.
"The focus on low-income communities can enhance job opportunities, and even help them get out of the poverty line," she added.
APEC economies will be meeting again at the First Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM 1) which will be held in Putrajaya in February next year.
For more information visit the official website of APEC 2020.