Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Thailand and 2022 chair of the APEC Senior Officials Thani Thongphakdi. (Antara/HO-APEC Secretariat)

JAKARTA – The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is taking steps to pave a calibrated and measured way of reconnecting the dynamic region as economies learn to live with coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), according to the APEC Secretariat-issued statement received here Tuesday.
 
Such steps are also being taken as demand for travel is expected to make a steady comeback this year, the APEC Secretariat said.
 
Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Thailand and 2022 chair of the APEC Senior Officials Thani Thongphakdi, in his address to senior officials and business leaders from 21 APEC member economies last week in an event held in Singapore, underscored the need to reconnect the Asia-Pacific region to support recovery.
 
"Thailand recognizes the need to reconnect the region to support economic recovery. Taking forward the recommendation of the region’s business leaders to APEC leaders last year, a Safe Passage Task Force was created in order to coordinate cross-border travel resumption," Thongphakdi said.
 
He said the objective of the task force was to reopen cross-border travel safely and seamlessly in the short term while looking to expand business mobility in the longer term.
 
"The task force will engage subject matter experts by exploring possible common travel protocols and mutual recognition of health certificates as well as promoting sustainable tourism," he added.
 
To enhance connectivity in the long term, Thongphakdi said Thailand will continue conversations on broadening the scheme of the APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) and other innovative schemes to facilitate mobility for businesspeople and professionals to travel across APEC economies.
 
"We want to keep the momentum of international cooperation going by further deepening our regional economic integration," he added. "Our discussion on the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) has been the cornerstone in facilitating trade and investment in the region.”
 
A policy dialogue on FTAAP will be held in May 2022 to provide an avenue for member economies and business leaders to discuss how regional economic integration should evolve in the post-Covid era.
 
Thongphakdi underscored the importance of involving APEC business communities throughout this process.
 
"As our experts are kick-starting a refreshed conversation on FTAAP, particularly on emerging trade issues post-Covid-19, we urge business communities to share these insights on what is needed in the changing landscape," he said.
 
The First APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) meeting was held in Singapore on Feb. 15-18, 2022. As many as 150 delegates attended the meeting in person and while most APEC senior officials joined virtually.
 
In tandem, APEC’s technical meetings are underway, covering sectoral issues, such as food security, ocean and fisheries, the digital economy, market access, and business mobility.
 
Those discussions will culminate at the Senior Officials’ Meeting on Feb. 24-25, 2022. (Antara)