KUALA LUMPUR: The year 2020 is supposed to be an ambitious year for regional trade pacts.
However, progress has been hampered as the world scrambles to mitigate the challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The deadly virus – which had allegedly originated from an exotic meat market in Wuhan, China, and detected in Malaysia as early as in January this year – has severely damaged the global economy, and the country was not spared from its repercussions.
Like many other countries, Malaysia has resorted to taking drastic actions, including implementing international border closure and restricting interstate travels to curb the spread of Covid-19, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) had declared as a global pandemic on March 11,2020.
However, amidst the backdrop of the pandemic, Malaysia has proven its capabilities by successfully conducting and concluding its year-long Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) chairmanship with a strong pledge towards free, open and non-discriminatory trade and investment.
The leaders of the 21 Apec member economies vowed to strengthen cooperation during and after the Covid-19 pandemic, as they gathered online on Nov 21 for the first-ever fully virtual 27th Apec Economic Leaders Meeting (AELM).
“As a grouping whose economies constitute about 60% of the global economy, Apec assumes a central role in spearheading post-pandemic economic recovery, ” Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, the host of this year’s Apec meetings, said in his opening remarks.
Among the leaders at this year’s AELM were the US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Both leaders agreed to set aside their differences and recognise the importance of a free, open, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent and predictable trade and investment environment to drive economic recovery in such a challenging time.
Two years ago, Apec leaders failed to agree on a joint statement for the first time in its history amidst a trade row between Washington and Beijing, while in 2019, the AELM meeting scheduled in Chile was cancelled due to anti-government protests across the South American cities.
In a declaration issued after the virtually-held meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Apec leaders stated their commitment to combatting and mitigating the impacts of Covid-19 and improving the narrative of trade and investment.
They had also committed to implement inclusive economic participation through digital economy and technology, driving innovative and inclusive sustainability, as well as strengthening stakeholder engagement during “one of the most challenging health and economic crises of our times”. — Bernama
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