Apec 2020 will focus on redefining the role of trade and investment from one that is solely for wealth creation to one that is also able to deliver social and economic inclusivity.
Apec 2020 Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) chair, Hairil Yahri Yaacob, said after 30 years of Bogor Goals’ direction for free and open trade and investment in the region, the region’s economy grew from US$23.5 trillion in 1990 to US$66.2 trillion in 2018, an average of 3.7 percent per year.
Hairil Yahri (below) said while there was little doubt that this had led to unprecedented improvements in income, living standards and connectivity, there was an on-going debate about its impact on income inequality and social equity.
Apec economies, he said, had begun to realise that the wealth created by trade and investment within the region caused a wider disparity, leaving a large segment of society behind.
“Therefore, a fundamental change in the way we think about economics is necessary. It needs to be redesigned to suit the current situation by putting people at its core and pursuit of inclusive sustainable growth central, with assurance to leave no one behind.
“This is the objective of the Shared Prosperity philosophy that was introduced by the prime minister of Malaysia at the CEO Summit in Papua New Guinea in 2018. This philosophy will allow for sustainable growth along with fair and equitable distribution among and within the economies,” he said.
He said this in his opening remarks at the Symposium on Priorities for Apec Informal Senior Officials’ Meetings (ISOM), the inaugural programme to kick off Malaysia’s host year in Langkawi today.
Also present were Apec Secretariat executive director Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria and Apec Business Advisory Council (ABAC) 2020 Chair Rohana Mahmood.
Hairil Yahri said the concept of shared prosperity was nothing new to Apec economies.
"Every economy has been undertaking one or another policy to provide a better living for its citizens, and there are businesses already taking larger responsibility in contributing to the betterment of society. We just have to consolidate these efforts in Malaysia’s host year," he said.
In Apec 2020, Hairil Yahri said sustainability would also become an integral discussion, with Malaysia focusing on optimal resource management to minimise the adverse impacts on the environment through innovative practices to stay relevant with the changing environment.
He said apart from digital disruption, there was a growing concern over sustainability-related issues including the environment and climate change.
"As you all may be aware, for more than a year, children and young people from around the world have been striking for the climate. The initiator for this is Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish girl who has taken the world by storm and bravely criticised world leaders about the real issue out there on climate change.
"We are in a situation where issues of unsustainable management of resources that is causing disruption to the ecosystem in the form of plastic, excessive waste generation and the like cannot be ignored.
"Apec in the past has been shying away from discussing all these issues openly citing that these are not economic issues. What we have to realise is that there is opportunity cost directly linked to sustainability especially economic value," he said.