1 Let me begin by commending Malaysia for its efforts in maintaining the momentum of APEC meetings via a virtual platform amidst a difficult year.
2 The COVID-19 pandemic is not only a health crisis, but an economic and social one, that has brought unprecedented effects to all of us. More so than ever, the crisis has underscored the critical importance of regional and international cooperation so that we can work towards a more inclusive and sustainable growth.
3 I would like to make four points. First, COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of global supply chain connectivity, in particular, for essential goods and services, which my colleague has referred to earlier; but as well as to ensure food security. Earlier this year, there were disruptions around the world to food supplies as some ports and airports operations came to a halt. This has badly affected economies that are heavily dependent on exports, as well as the livelihoods of farmers and traders who could not sell their products, many of which were perishables. It also affects non-agricultural economies dependent on food imports for their people.
4 As few economies are self-sufficient in food, it is essential for APEC to work more closely together, and keep trade flowing during a crisis, so that we have a resilient food supply chain which can withstand future shocks, and underpinned by an open, rules-based multilateral trading system.
5 Second, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the fore that we should step up the transformation of the digital economy, including providing appropriate support to Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, and ensuring that all segments of the society can benefit from it, including women, the older population and the more vulnerable, so that no one is left behind.
6 Third, we should work more closely to strengthen regional and global public health response and preparedness. International cooperation to find a viable vaccine is the only long-term solution to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic. Singapore encourages all APEC economies to support vaccine multilateralism, that is, the fair and equitable access to diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. No one is safe until all are safe.
7 Fourth, in the meantime, we should explore how we can re-open our borders in a safe and calibrated manner to restore confidence and the flow of people which is essential for a full recovery of our economies, including the important sectors of aviation and tourism.
8 In this regard, Singapore has embarked on reciprocal green lanes for essential business and official travels in the first instance with several APEC member economies. Most recently, we concluded our first Air Travel Bubble with Hong Kong/China.
9 Relevant health protocols have been put in place to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 cases and if this continues to work, it could be a formula for a wider network of travel between economies, reviving the aviation sector which has been hardest hit in most economies.
10 In brief, there is much we can do together to overcome this global crisis. APEC can help lead a process towards a robust economic recovery and create a region that is more resilient to future shocks, so that future generations can benefit from the efforts we have made today.
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