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Asia-Pacific business leaders call for solutions that put people first

ABAC 2021 Chair Rachel Taulelei talks about the release of the Report to Economic Leaders.

People need to be at the heart of measures to address the health and prosperity of the Asia Pacific region, according to this year’s Report to Economic Leaders by the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC).

Unveiling the report today, Rachel Taulelei, Chair of ABAC for 2021, said that the Council’s theme for this year had been ‘People, Place and Prosperity’ or ‘Tāngata, Taiao me te Taurikura’.  

“In these challenging times, when the need for universal vaccination is acute, we must put people (ngā tāngata) first,” said Ms Taulelei.   “Getting everyone vaccinated is key to overcoming the health crisis, enabling us to reopen borders safely and seamlessly, and also the critical work of restarting the engines for growth”.

“But of course, our challenges do not end there.  We need to move forward in a way that respects the environment (te taiao) in which we live. And we have to advance prosperity (te taurikua) in a way that is not just sustainable, but also inclusive,” said Ms Taulelei.

Each of APEC’s 21 economies has three ABAC representatives. In addition to Rachel Taulelei, New Zealand’s members, appointed by the Prime Minister, are Malcolm Johns, CEO of Christchurch International Airport (who led work on climate change) and Anna Curzon, Chief Product Officer of Xero (who led on digital transformation).  Ms Taulelei led work on Indigenous economic empowerment in addition to her responsibilities as Chair.

Ms Taulelei explained that ABAC had made 43 separate recommendations developed through an extensive round of virtual meetings across the five pillars of Regional Economic Integration; Sustainability; Inclusion; Digital; and Economy.

“To foster the wellbeing of our people, we call for capacity-building and structural reform to empower small businesses, women and Indigenous communities. Achieving a digitally-enhanced, trade-friendly and sustainable food system is also foundational. 

“To safeguard the place in which we live, sustainability must drive all of APEC’s activity.  We have developed a set of Climate Leadership Principles for Business and a framework for trade and investment in renewable energy which we want to see adopted more broadly. 

Taking part in the event for the report's release are (from top left), Stephen Jacobi, Anna Curzon, Rachel Taulelei, (from bottom left) Stephanie Honey and Malcolm Johns.

“As for prosperity, APEC can demonstrate real leadership as it has done so effectively in the past, championing a credible and relevant World Trade Organisation (WTO) and building towards the eventual Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP). There is an urgent need to realise the potential of the digital economy through upgrading skills, investing in infrastructure and enabling more seamless, interoperable digital trade.  These actions need to be supported by ongoing efforts at structural effort reform.

“The pandemic illustrates the fact that our world is deeply interconnected,” Ms Taulelei noted. “Our wellbeing, and a prosperous, peaceful and resilient future, will only be achieved together. The challenges we face are profound – but they are also shared.

“That idea of ‘community’ is fundamental to APEC’s Putrajaya Vision 2040 adopted just last year. But we can’t wait twenty more years to achieve these ambitious goals. The time for action is now”, Ms Taulelei concluded.

A copy of ABAC’s full Report may be found at

For further information

Rachel Taulelei, ABAC Chair: 021 966 849

Stephen Jacobi, ABAC Executive Director: 0294 725 502

About APEC

APEC Member Economies: Australia; Brunei Darussalam; Canada; Chile; China; Hong Kong, China; Indonesia; Japan; Korea; Malaysia; Mexico; New Zealand; Papua New Guinea; Peru; Philippines; Russia; Singapore; Chinese Taipei; Thailand; United States of America; and Viet Nam. 

About ABAC

ABAC was created by APEC Leaders in 1995 to be the primary voice of business in APEC. Each economy has three members who are appointed by their respective Leaders. 

New Zealand’s ABAC Members are supported by the NZ International Business Forum.

Join, Work, Grow. Together.
Haumi ē, Hui ē, Tāiki ē.