APEC finance ministers focus on Covid recovery

The New Zealand Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson chaired the virtual APEC Finance Ministers’ Meeting from Wellington. Photo: File.

APEC finance ministers will continue to work together to respond to the effects of Covid-19 and ensure a sustainable and inclusive recovery while capitalising on the opportunity to build a more resilient future.

The New Zealand Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson chaired the virtual APEC Finance Ministers’ Meeting from Wellington.

“While economic activity in the region has rebounded and vaccination rates are rising, the recovery from Covid-19 has been uneven. Some sectors, such as tourism, small and medium-sized businesses, and some groups, such as women and indigenous peoples, continue to be disproportionately impacted by the pandemic,” says Robertson. 

“Finance ministers have had constructive discussions on the actions and policies APEC economies have implemented to combat the pandemic and the need for a balanced approach to preserve long term fiscal sustainability while supporting wellbeing, targeting support to where it is needed most and tackling long-standing issues of climate change and biodiversity loss."

Attendees included finance ministers from all 21 APEC economies, APEC Business Advisory Council Chair Rachel Taulelei, representatives from the OECD, IMF, WBG, and ADB, and incoming APEC Finance Ministers’ Process Chair Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith of Thailand.

In a joint statement issued after the meeting, the APEC finance ministers agreed to use all available policy tools to address Covid and support a strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive recovery; maintain macroeconomic and financial stability; refrain from competitive exchange rate devaluations; step-up efforts to expand vaccine manufacture and supply and support global vaccine sharing efforts; reiterate the importance of a free and fair trade and investment environment with the WTO at its centre; and accelerate the digital transformation.

Ministers also agreed on the refreshed Cebu Action Plan strategy, which encourages economies to pay due regard to APEC’s new guiding document, the APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040, and APEC’s new structural reform agenda, the Enhanced APEC Agenda for Structural Reform.

The Cebu Action Plan was agreed by Finance Ministers during the Philippines’ 2015 host year and sets out the 10-year high-level work programme of the Finance Ministers’ Process. 2021 marks the year of a mandated mid-point review. The review gives an opportunity for economies to consider the impact of COVID-19 and the recently agreed Putrajaya Vision 2040. As part of the strategy refresh New Zealand has recommended the adoption of a Champion Economies model which would allow individual economies to volunteer to run multi-year work programmes on specific policy issues.

“It was a privilege to join with fellow APEC finance ministers to strengthen our bonds and to reflect on our collective progress to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. This meeting has reinforced that  we have strategies and tools available to us that can continue to drive recovery while also tackling climate change and improving the wellbeing of people across all APEC economies,” says Robertson.

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