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APEC needs the voice of business, PM Jacinda Ardern says

Business leaders from 21 Asia-Pacific economies met virtually this week to discuss how to work together to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and rebuild the region’s economies. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gave an address to the ABAC officials at the meeting.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has told the Asia-Pacific’s business leaders “the challenge for all of us is to make the right choices that enable a rapid; sustainable and inclusive recovery”.

The prime minister’s video address was played to business sector leaders during the year’s first meeting of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) on February 9. The council is the business voice and private-sector arm of APEC - the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation - and this was the first of four meetings it will hold through the year.

The meetings allow representatives to give advice to senior officials, ministers and APEC leaders. Tuesday’s discussions focused on how to work together to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic and rebuild the region’s economies.

Ms Ardern said business was the lynchpin in the recovery from the pandemic.

“APEC economies need the voice of business. As well as generating ideas, your advice is key to APEC creating conditions that drive economic growth and create jobs in our region.

“There is no doubt what our major challenge is this year. Fighting the pandemic; and recovering our economies.  The challenge for all of us is to make the right choices that enable a rapid, sustainable and inclusive recovery.”

However the prime minister said business needed to be sustainable and inclusive in order for the plan to work.

ABAC Chair Rachel Taulelei

“If we are to succeed, we must invest in infrastructure and support businesses to thrive, we need to invest in our people to get into meaningful work, we need to ensure we are building a green recovery by making our economy sustainable and ensuring that all sectors of our community, women, small businesses, and indigenous communities are included.”

Ms Ardern said all 21 APEC economies needed to redouble their commitment to open markets.

“Trade and investment has been the long-term engine of growth and prosperity in our region. As we respond to our current challenges we must keep our markets open, keep our trade flowing as engines for business to grow and for jobs to be created.

“As government and business leaders together, we must ensure that the ideas APEC stands for, ideas like openness, innovation, dynamism, sustainability and inclusion are all applied effectively to today’s challenges.”

ABAC chair Rachel Taulelei said the region needed cohesive, coordinated thinking to aid the recovery from Covid-19.

“We are living through the crisis of a century and strength comes from our determination to work together.

“Overcoming the current adversity, whether restoring public health, reopening borders, securing economic recovery or achieving more equitable communities, demands constructive, creative and above all collaborative approaches,” Ms Taulelei added.

“The need for this kind of coordinated thinking has been brought home very vividly by the spectre of vaccine export restrictions; it remains true, as it has been since the beginning of this crisis, that we all remain vulnerable if any of us remains vulnerable,” Ms Taulelei said.

APEC’s leaders formed ABAC in 1995 to provide advice from the business community around the region relevant to APEC’s work. Among ABAC's most tangible successes is a Business Travel Card, making it easier for business people to travel around the region.

Each economy picks the people they want to represent them at ABAC. Representing New Zealand are Ms Taulelei, chief executive of Kono New Zealand, Christchurch International Airport chief executive Malcolm Johns, and Xero chief product officer Anna Curzon.