Asia St: New APEC Trade Meetings Signal Future Multilateral Priorities

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New APEC Trade Meetings Signal Future Multilateral Priorities

June 17, 2021

A recent meeting of the APEC ministers responsible for structural reform (Photo Credit: APEC2021 NZ Twitter Account).

BGA Senior Advisor Ambassador Larry Greenwood recently wrote an update to clients on APEC and the multilateral trade agenda. The update included insights gleaned from officials and other stakeholders following meetings by senior officials in May and June to discuss the trade agenda for the rest of 2021 and beyond.

Context

Recent meetings have put the spotlight on aspects of the ongoing multilateral trade agenda, with APEC being hosted by New Zealand this year. APEC senior officials have been participating in briefings with stakeholders following three sets of just-completed meetings: the second Senior Officials’ Meeting, the meeting of Ministers Responsible for Trade and the ministerial dialogue with the APEC Business Advisory Council.

The shaping of the ongoing multilateral trade agenda comes amid a series of broader developments. These include the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic as well as the gradual unveiling of trade policy by the new U.S. administration led by President Joe Biden.

Significance

The recent meetings have expanded support for Covid-19 assistance. This includes a U.S. pledge to provide a half-billion doses of vaccines and $4 billion in financial assistance to COVAX, the global initiative aimed at providing equitable access to Covid vaccines, over 2021-2022.

Biden officials have been communicating support for multilateral collaboration in areas such as climate and health amid Covid-19, while also trying to advance priorities like tougher labor and environmental standards. In addition to sectoral priorities such as facilitating cross-border data transfer, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai has proposed the inclusion of stronger measures on labor and state-owned enterprises and “resilient” and sustainable supply chains.

Implications

U.S. policy will remain important to watch, including the potential that the United States will host APEC in 2023. So far, though Thailand is host for 2022 and South Korea is host for 2225, there are no hosts for 2023 and 2024.

Looking ahead, the future prospects of implementation plans for APEC remain key to monitor. Though senior officials have met to discuss details of the implementation plan for the Putrajaya Vision for the future of APEC, adopted by leaders in 2020, there is still a wide range of views on how detailed the implementation plan should be.

Subsequent APEC functional and sectoral meetings will continue to be important to watch to assess the evolution of the multilateral trade agenda. These include senior finance officials meeting the week of June 21, followed by a finance ministers meeting that would include a dialogue session with ABAC, a virtual APEC CEO summit hosted by New Zealand in November, and the next Digital Economy Dialogue involving the private sector will be held in September on the margins of the third SOM.

BGA will continue to keep clients on updated on new developments as they occur. If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to BGA Senior Advisor Ambassador Larry Greenwood at lgreenwood@bowergroupasia.com.