A strong, relevant and credible WTO is needed to build back better from COVID, say Asia-Pacific Business Leaders

Asia-Pacific business leaders, meeting virtually this week in the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), have released a Statement in support of the WTO. 

“The WTO is the foundation of decades of prosperity for our region and the world,” said Rachel Taulelei, Chair of ABAC. “We need it now more than ever– but we also need to strengthen and update the WTO rulebook and operations to keep it relevant.” 

Ms Taulelei said that ABAC was urging APEC economies to lead this work – just as APEC had played a pivotal role in concluding the WTO Uruguay Round 25 years ago. 

“Our top priority must be to ensure that WTO rules can help us collectively to overcome the health challenges of COVID and restart the engines for growth,” she explained. “Trade can and should be part of the solution to the current crisis.” 

“We also need to get the WTO system fully operational again – that means we need to appoint a full slate of WTO Appellate Body members and agree necessary reforms to the dispute settlement system,” she added. “And enhanced transparency, both in respect of COVID responses and in meeting existing obligations, will be essential to build trust.” 

Ms Taulelei added that ABAC was urging APEC economies to champion reforms in other areas too. “For resilient growth, we will need continuing trade liberalisation to keep supply chains functioning, and global rules in a range of other areas – including for digital trade, for measures that help turbocharge the transition to a low-carbon economy, and for wider and more successful participation in trade,” she added. 

“There is also unfinished business in agriculture, fish subsidies and services that needs to be resolved,” Ms Taulelei noted. 

The Chair said that ABAC strongly supported the efforts of the new Director-General to find common ground ahead of the Twelfth Ministerial Conference. 

“Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has begun her term with energy and determination. The Asia-Pacific business community welcomes her drive, and stands ready to contribute to WTO trade policymaking – this year and into the future,” Ms Taulelei concluded. 



APEC Member Economies: Australia; Brunei Darussalam; Canada; Chile; China; Hong Kong, China; Indonesia; Japan; Korea; Malaysia; Mexico; New Zealand; Papua New Guinea; Peru; Philippines; Russia; Singapore; Chinese Taipei; Thailand; United States of America; and Viet Nam. 

ABAC was created by APEC Leaders in 1995 to be the primary voice of business in APEC. Each economy has three members who are appointed by their respective Leaders. They meet four times a year in preparation for the presentation of their recommendations to the Leaders in a dialogue that is a key event in the annual Leaders Meeting. 

Under New Zealand’s leadership, ABAC is pursuing a work program under the theme “People, Place and Prosperity” to respond to the challenge of maintaining the economic vitality of the Asia-Pacific Region and ensure it benefits all. 

ABAC 2021 Chair is Rachel Taulelei and the Co-Chairs are Dato Rohana Mahmood (Malaysia) and Supant Mongkolsuthree (Thailand), with five (5) working group chairs, namely: Ho Meng Kit, Regional Economic Integration Working Group (REIWG); Ning Gaoning, Sustainability Working Group (SWG); Julia Torreblanca, Inclusion Working Group (IWG); Janet De Silva, Digital Working Group (DWG); and Robert Milliner, Economy Working Group (EWG). 

For further information please contact: 

Mr. Stephen Jacobi, ABAC Executive Director 2021, Mobile: +64 29 472 5502, Email: stephen@jacobi.co.nz Mr. Antonio Basilio, Director, ABAC Secretariat, Mobile: + 63 917 849 3351, Email: abacsec@pfgc.ph