OVER the course of a five-day summit, APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) members prepared for their annual dialogue with APEC Leaders through purpose-driven discussions and exchanges.

On November 18, the Dialogue with Leaders was held. It focused on collective leadership and decisive action in order to enhance regional economic recovery and long-term growth and prosperity through multi-stakeholder cooperation.

The dialogue was conducted through breakout sessions between ABAC members and APEC leaders. In the breakout session, Aboitiz Group President and CEO and ABAC PH member Sabin Aboitiz joined Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo, Mexico Ambassador Bernardo Cordoba, and New Zealand Deputy Trade and Economic Minister Vangelis Vitalis, as well as the ABAC members of their respective economies.

There were four main topics of discussion, namely, economic recovery, sustainability, regional economic integration, and digitalization and inclusion.

“We had very productive and healthy discussions on a variety of issues that spoke directly to feasible and reasonable solutions to many of the region’s more pressing economic development challenges,” Aboitiz said.

Prior to the breakout sessions, a plenary session was held with all the attending APEC leaders and ABAC members. During the plenary, 2022 ABAC Chair and Chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries Kriengkrai Thiennukul presented on behalf of the ABAC members the 2022 ABAC Report to Leaders.

“We will impress on Leaders that these challenges demand both leadership and decisive action from APEC economies. We, in the business community, are eager to contribute, collaborate and advance recovery to secure future growth,” said Kriengkrai.

“ABAC has proposed a range of actions to deepen economic integration, including supporting a stronger and more relevant WTO and accelerating the journey towards the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific through a structured work programme that would deliver tangible benefits for businesses in the short to medium term,” added the 2022 ABAC chair.

In his speech, Kriengkrai summarized key recommendations from the 2022 ABAC Report to Leaders. This included an integrated sustainability agenda, including APEC’s climate response and a framework for trade and investment in renewable energy. This was followed by the suggestion of promoting and supporting the digital economy, particularly for MSMEs.

“These actions are all fundamental to enabling a seamless, dynamic, resilient, and sustainable region – and a place where everyone including disadvantaged and under-served groups can enjoy the benefits and opportunities offered by deeper regional economic integration,” Kriengkrai added.

Given the challenges the region faces, ABAC members recognize that it is more imperative than ever that public and private stakeholders work together to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth. The Dialogue with Leaders was thought-provoking and inspiring for the attendees, businessmen and economic leaders alike, who look to the future revitalized and ready.

Looking ahead, ABAC also approved its work program for 2023 around the theme “Equity. Sustainability. Opportunity.” to be chaired by East West Bank Chairman and CEO and ABAC USA member Dominic Ng.

In July 2023, the Philippines will be hosting the ABAC III meetings, with over 200 delegates from the Asia-Pacific region expected to participate. (PR)