Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha has called on CEOs across Asia and the Pacific to join hands in driving the post-COVID-19 economic recovery and build back better a new Asia-Pacific region that is robust, resilient that leaves no one behind.
The Prime Minister on 19 November 2020 delivered a keynote address on “ASEAN’s Place in APEC’s Future” at the virtual APEC CEO Dialogues 2020.
He said, “The time is ripe for us to leverage on the strengths of APEC and ASEAN to promote inclusive cooperation that is complementary in order to move forward for our mutual benefit and win-win cooperation.
“First, we have to contain the spread of COVID-19 and address the short-term impacts to help our economies move forward. To this end, I applaud APEC and ASEAN for their cooperation and timely initiatives in combating COVID-19. This includes the establishment of the ASEAN Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies, the ASEAN Centre for Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases, the adoption of the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework, and the proposed ASEAN SME Recovery Facility, to name a few.
“APEC has also promptly responded to COVID-19. I commend the launch of the information-sharing platform on COVID-19 which is part of Malaysia’s initiative to create a database for business recovery (Latest and Immediate Virtual Exchange: LIVE), and China’s proposal to establish a fund to support developing economies to respond to COVID-19. In addition, APEC adopted the Declaration on Facilitating the Movement of Essential Goods, especially medicines and medical supplies, as jointly proposed by New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore.
“As I mentioned earlier, we should create linkages between some of the initiatives under both fora to reboot and kick-off the next phase of economic expansion. However, governments’ initiatives are only part of the solution. The role of the private sector will be most important in re-building trust and reviving investment and employment. The APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) and the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC) can make use of their extensive networks and expertise to help jump-start the economy.
“Secondly, we must reconnect global value chains. In the post-COVID-19 economy, we must reaffirm our commitment to the multilateral trading system, free and open trade and investment, integrated and seamless connectivity, especially the need to harness the potential of the digital economy and diversify global value chains. ASEAN and Thailand can greatly contribute to APEC in these areas. The successful establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) allows for the free flow of goods and increases opportunities for trade in services and investment by leveraging on the diverse comparative advantages of member states.
“In addition to integration within ASEAN member states, ASEAN also attaches importance to extending economic cooperation with external partners. Last Sunday, the 10 ASEAN countries and five Dialogue Partners signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) making RCEP one of the world’s largest free trade agreements.
“The success of RCEP at this pivotal moment will reinvigorate regional economic integration and multilateral trade. RCEP is also a good example of an agreement that benefits all parties and can serve as a groundwork for the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific or FTAAP.
“Furthermore, ASEAN’s strengths also lie in regional connectivity with the potential to link Asia and the Pacific. The Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025 (MPAC 2025) serves as the main framework for ASEAN, along with other connectivity blueprints in other fora, such as ACMECS. Thailand also has tangible connectivity projects, including the Eastern Economic Corridor or EEC, the Thai Bridge Project (Saphan Thai), and a project to create connectivity between the Laem Chabang Seaport and with other international logistic hubs through the Gulf of Thailand – Andaman Sea Linkage Development. Cooperation between the public and private sectors will be key in the swift materialization of these connectivity projects.
“When combined with APEC’s strengths in regulations, governance and advanced digital system, ASEAN and APEC can complement one another. By building on existing frameworks, we can connect the connectivities in all dimensions.
“Lastly, the spread of COVID-19 has exposed weaknesses in our economies, especially those sectors unable to adapt to rapid changes. At the same time, it has highlighted strengths that have helped sustain many economies in these difficult times. For Thailand, these strengths include the areas of agriculture and public health.
“Thus, now is the time to turn this crisis into opportunities. Each economy must re-consider their perspectives on development and prioritize strong, resilient, inclusive and sustainable growth.
“It is imperative that we build on these strengths and make them stronger. At the same time, we must address and manage our weaknesses to build resilience and immunities for future new challenges. We, in this sense, does not refer to just the governments of APEC and ASEAN, but also includes the private sector. The private sector plays an important role in embracing responsible business conduct, including responsibility to society and environment as well as the promotion of a circular economy.”
The Prime Minister also gave examples of Thailand’s strengths that have sustained the country throughout the current crisis and may be beneficial to future cooperation within the Asia-Pacific.
“First is Thailand’s strong agricultural sector which is an important foundation for the Thai economy. The agricultural sector adapted to the constantly changing environment and production continued uninterrupted. This enabled Thailand to maintain its status as a major food producer and exporter even at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and helped ensure food security for Thailand and the world.
“Second is our robust public health system that efficiently provided high quality services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our health care system is largely based on the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and we are ready to share our experiences in this area.
“Furthermore, Thailand places great importance on access to medical supplies, equipment and services, including the development of COVID-19 vaccines that are equitably accessible by all. This is one possible area of collaboration between APEC and ASEAN.”
Source: The Government Public Relations Department