Trade and sectoral officials from the 21 APEC member economies have begun gathering in Chile for the first time during its 2019 hosting, intent on finding multilateral solutions to the challenges that the Asia-Pacific will face this coming decade.
Over the next two weeks, officials meeting in the Chilean capital will introduce joint initiatives to ensure APEC economies collectively adapt to an increasingly digitized society, and to make sure continued economic growth is both sustainable and distributed fairly across society.
Chile’s priorities for APEC 2019 are listed as the following: 1) Digital Society; 2) Integration 4.0; 3) Women, SMEs and Inclusive Growth; and 4) Sustainable Growth. The theme for this year is “Connecting People, Building the Future”
Chile’s 2019 agenda prioritizes initiatives that will help empower underrepresented sectors by improving their access to the economy through digital breakthroughs and creating opportunities for better jobs, wages and quality of life.
APEC officials will also focus on environmental initiatives, as well as a range of other pressing issues. The proceedings will culminate with the APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting on 7– 8 March, the first of four to be held this year in Chile.
“Our years of participation in APEC have brought a lot of valuable input for Chile’s position with regards to the Asia-Pacific and trade,” explained Rodrigo Yanez, Chile’s Vice Minister of Trade. “We have 16 different free trade agreements with APEC economies and that has been achieved very importantly because of the discussions and the input in, and also how Leaders have gathered in the context of, the APEC Leaders’ Meeting.”
According to Dr Rebecca Sta Maria, Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat, “We will see a continuation of the conversation around issues and challenges that matter to APEC and to APEC economies, specifically the work that APEC needs to do on the digital economy, digital society.”
“That’s one of the priorities of Chile. The other is a focus on inclusive economic development. This is ensuring that no one is left behind, effectively, whether it’s women, whether it’s MSMEs, whether its indigenous folks or those who are in the margins of society,” Dr Sta Maria said.
Dr Sta Maria acknowledged that 2019 is a challenging time for APEC but is assured that the forum is a good platform for Asia-Pacific economies to find solutions through deeper conversations, deeper engagements.
“Perhaps we won’t find solutions immediately—that’s the reality, but at least we can continue to engage and have these important conversations,” she said.
“I am confident that with Chile on the chair, we will see some bright spots, more green shoots, I suppose, in this environment,” she concluded.
The complete APEC SOM1 and Related Meetings schedule in Santiago from 23 February to 8 March can be viewed here.
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