Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte stressed the need for countries to ensure universal access to a Covid-19 vaccine and to keep trade free, open and fair in order to achieve comprehensive and inclusive economic recovery in the face of the pandemic.
Duterte made the call on November 20 when he spoke at the 27th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Leaders’ Meeting, which was held online and hosted by Malaysia.
The 21-member Apec endorsed the Apec Putrajaya Vision 2040 that commits the member economies to deepen regional economic integration, address income inequality within and between countries, and enhance economic cooperation to face the new globalisation, driven by digitalisation and innovation.
In his address to fellow state leaders, Duterte described Covid-19 as the defining challenge of the generation, with unprecedented reach and ramifications.
He noted that most countries immediately focused on saving lives even if it meant bringing economies to a halt.
This was the right thing to do at the onset as it saved lives and contained the virus, he said.
But this was not sustainable and economies have to be reopened while protecting people and helping them adjust to the “new normal”, Duterte said.
“This is a difficult balance to strike. Here lies the complexity and enormity of the recovery process,” he said.
World leaders must work even more closely together so that their recovery from the pandemic would be complete, Duterte said.
“We aim for a comprehensive recovery with no one left behind. This can only be done through deeper engagement with the international community, especially with close partners in the Pacific Rim region,” he said.
One of the areas [we] can work together is in ensuring the unimpeded flow of medical supplies and technologies, especially Covid-19 vaccines to which all must have access, Duterte said.
This can be achieved through bilateral and multilateral cooperation and tripartite arrangements between the government, private sector and multilateral financial institutions, he said.
“There is no other way. Let us resolve to act decisively on universal vaccine access and maximise these mechanisms,” he said.
“It is folly to assume that there can be pockets of safe havens in the face of a global pandemic.”
“We have to defeat the virus everywhere, or no one is safe. To do this, we need to strengthen partnerships to make vaccines a global public good,” he said.
Duterte also said countries must share best practices as he welcomed Malaysia’s initiative to establish the Covid-Live online portal.
Apec must also see to it that trade would be free, open and fair, Duterte said.
“This is key to achieving sustained and inclusive economic recovery,” he said.
The new reality is “sobering”, Duterte said, but added: “If anything, we must recommit ourselves to bolder, more concrete ways to ensure our region’s economic well-being and vitality.”
He said the Apec Putrajaya Vision 2040 recognises the pressing challenges of today and foresees those of the future.
“Through this Vision, we reaffirm our support for a free and rules-based multilateral trading system, with the World Trade Organisation as its vanguard,” he said.
“Indeed, the Apec Putrajaya Vision 2040 gives us renewed confidence in our collective efforts and ability to build back better, healthier and more prosperous societies,” Duterte said.
PHILIPPINE DAILY Inquirer/Asia News Network