Eminent business leaders from across the Asia-Pacific region have expressed strong support for multilateralism and regional cooperation as well as increased public-private partnerships to build back better and more sustainably. They also underscored that as countries recover from the COVID-19 pandemic impacts, this is no time for nationalism and protectionism; further highlighting the importance of reviving international trade and investment to allow businesses to grow and access world markets.
Over 750 private sector leaders, policymakers and community stakeholders participated in the Asia-Pacific Business Forum (APBF) 2020 today, organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in cooperation with the ESCAP Sustainable Business Network (ESBN).
This year, Forum discussions focused on ‘The Future of Global Value Chains and Implications for SMEs’. Apart from ongoing trade tensions and market disruptions, the management of the COVID-19 pandemic is challenging the future of business and regional value chains. This has resulted in severe negative impacts on small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to keep their businesses afloat. The current crisis has necessitated the importance of reshoring and consolidation of hubs and architecture of the value chains in the Asia-Pacific region. By raising business resilience, SMEs will be in a better position to participate in value chains and offer new investment opportunities.
“Governments and business must work together to ensure resilient and sustainable value chains. Governments need to provide the appropriate supporting policy and regulatory frameworks to allow for an effective and efficient collaboration within public-private investment mechanisms,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana.
“One crucial opportunity from the economic downturn is that it offers the chance to rebuild. This is the time to add and strive for more sustainability in global value chains, which is one of the key objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” highlighted H.E. Dr. Sansern Samalapa, Vice Minister for Commerce, Thailand in his keynote remarks.
“Even in this difficult time as we grapple with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, it is protectionist policies that continue to pose the greatest threat long-term to global supply chains and the millions of small companies that rely on open markets for the health of their businesses and their communities,” said Mr. John W.H. Denton, Secretary-General, International Chamber of Commerce.
The Forum further highlighted the importance of conducive policy and regulatory environments, as well as greater improvements in sustainable regional connectivity in trade, transport, energy and ICT. In particular, the pandemic has boosted the need for and value of digitalization which cuts across all sectors of the economy. This, underscored Forum delegates, is the modality of the future for business, both large, medium and small.
“We simply cannot deliver our massively ambitious sustainability commitments without engaging everyone in our value chains. COVID-19 has tested our collective resilience but it has also served as a stark reminder that we are driven by the right purpose and we must collectively work harder to solve the myriad challenges we face together,” said Mr. Robert Candelino, Chief Executive Officer and General Manager, Unilever Thailand.
Established in 2004, the Asia-Pacific Business Forum is the flagship regional business forum organized by ESCAP and ESBN as a platform for regional public-private sector dialogue on the role and needs of business in achieving inclusive, resilient and sustainable development. The ABPF also seeks to showcase innovative and sustainable solutions that businesses are creating in a variety of industries to meet the development needs of Asia and the Pacific.