APEC economies urged to end trade-restrictive policies to help fight COVID-19

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Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies must put an end to trade-restrictive policies to help fight COVID-19, the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) said on Saturday.

Such practices would hamper and delay recovery efforts if the engines of trade and investment could not be restarted quickly, Chair of ABAC Rohana Mahmood said in a statement released on Saturday.

"We urge APEC economies to announce a standstill on all new trade-restrictive measures for the rest of this year and to agree concrete actions to reduce protectionism going forward."

"Our most vulnerable communities need to be able to access food and other essential household products. Our businesses need to have the confidence to re-invest and rebuild our economies. Protectionism of any sort impedes the road to recovery," she said.

Rohana said ABAC has written to APEC trade and foreign ministers, urging them to lead the way in removing trade barriers on essential tools needed to fight the outbreak, including medical equipment, medicines and basic protective items such as soap, disinfectant and personal protective equipment (PPE).

She added that economies should facilitate trade in these critical supplies by simplifying and expediting border procedures, and should relax the rules to allow essential workers, including medical professionals to move across borders to serve the areas of greatest need.

"Underpinning all of this, APEC economies should of course share their experiences in acting to contain the pandemic, exchange data and research, and collaborate on public health measures," she said.

Rohana cautioned that the outbreak would have an impact beyond health, saying that it is rapidly unfolding as a financial and economic crisis, having placed small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), workers and supply chains under severe pressure.

"We are especially concerned about small businesses, the self-employed and those in the informal economy, who are ill-equipped to withstand these impacts. We also need to lay the groundwork for rapid economic recovery as the worst of the storm begins to subside," she added.

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