by Xinhua writer Lin Hao
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) -- As leaders of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) sit to meet virtually on Friday, they have dual tasks at hand -- to enhance solidarity against the COVID-19 pandemic and jointly facilitate a solid economy recovery, and to adopt a vision to chart course for the world's most vibrant region.
The sudden outbreak of the disease has posed unprecedented challenges to APEC economies, large or small; it also serves as a wake-up call for the bloc to work on a Post-2020 Vision that embodies the concepts of collaboration and cooperation in a sustainable and inclusive future.
APEC's birth and growth conform with the historic trend of growing interdependence and integration in the region, represent the area's strong desire for development.
For the past 30 years, APEC members have joined hands towards closer cooperation and deeper regional integration, making Asia-Pacific the world's most dynamic and promising economy as well as a key driving force for global growth and poverty reduction.
Unfortunately, the world, Asia-Pacific included, has witnessed rising unilateralism and protectionism in recent years. Increasing non-tariff barriers have been partly reversing the trend of lowering tariff since the implementation of the Bogor Goals in 1994, greatly disrupting economic cooperation and fueling trade tensions.
The raging pandemic has inflicted massive economic loss on APEC members. The bloc, which accounts for 38 percent of the world's population, 61 percent of the global GDP and 47 percent of global trade as of 2019, is expected to suffer its contraction for the first time in three decades, according to APEC Policy Support Unit.
Despite signs of recovery across the APEC region, especially from economies that have put the virus under control and gradually reopened their economies, uncertainties remain as the virus continues to ravage many parts of the world.
The still raging pandemic has underscored the importance and necessity of a coordinated and collective response from the international community. The most urgent task for the organization is to work together on the disease prevention and control.
APEC members need to take stronger joint actions to accelerate the development, production and distribution of quality and affordable vaccines, the best possible way to contain the virus. Meanwhile, they need to keep close communication and coordination to ensure the movement of goods, funds and people across the region.
As protectionism is mounting, it is crucial for the bloc to remain true to the call for regional economic integration as well as for a more open and free Asia-Pacific.
At this critical moment, APEC should demonstrate its strong support for an open and multilateral world trading system and continue to champion free trade and investment, so as to keep the global industrial and supply chains running well and build a more fair, equitable and inclusive business environment.
The latest good news for worldwide investors is that 15 countries in the region have signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the world's biggest free trade agreement that will further energize regional practical cooperation and facilitate post-pandemic global economic recovery.
What's more, APEC members, with growing global influence, need to shoulder their responsibility for promoting sustainable global development, which is in the common interest of all parties. As Chinese President Xi Jinping noted in his speech at the 12th BRICS summit on Tuesday, the international community needs to allocate more resources to such areas as poverty reduction, education, health and infrastructure development and foster a more equal and balanced global development partnership, so that the fruits of development will benefit more developing countries.
China has all along been playing an active role in promoting Asia-Pacific cooperation as well as boosting global growth. It will continue to work with others to jointly pursue common development and prosperity.
In the keynote speech at the APEC CEO Dialogues Thursday, Xi said China is already deeply integrated into the global economy and the international system, and will not reverse course or run against historical trend by "decoupling" or forming a small circle to keep others out.
APEC was created with a vision for a more peaceful and prosperous Asia-Pacific region. At this crucial moment of fighting COVID-19 and pursuing post-pandemic recovery, the realization of that vision requires APEC members to take even more decisive and coordinated steps so as to forge an Asia-Pacific community with a shared future. Enditem