The Second APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM2) and Related Meetings concluded on 19 May 2022 at the Shangri-La Hotel in Bangkok. During 11 days of productive meetings, over 1,200 APEC delegates from all 21 member economies gathered in both physical format and online, to further APEC’s work under the theme “Open. Connect. Balance.”. Delegates worked towards realization of Thailand host year’s objectives of a sustainable, inclusive and balanced economic recovery from COVID-19, as well as to address new economic challenges that threaten food and energy security and supply chain disruptions. Key development and achievements are as follows:
- Open to all opportunities Thailand proposed to bring a new momentum to APEC’s conversation on the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific or FTAAP, an idea initiated since 2006, to keep the FTAAP agenda relevant in the post-COVID-19 economic landscape, especially to ensure sustainability, inclusion and resilience against future disruptions. Having laid a groundwork at SOM1 and a Dedicated Session in March, SOM2 has made a significant progress by pushing forward an initiative to develop a multi-year work plan on the FTAAP for APEC to continue undertaking the FTAAP dialogue and capacity building program for member economies. In addition, guidelines that enable effective custom measures against illicit COVID-19 related goods and facilitate logistics-related services for cross-border movement of vaccines and medical supplies in the region were also endorsed during this meeting.
- Connect in all dimensions Thailand’s host year priority of reconnecting the region,
a vital prerequisite for the region’s robust economic recovery from the pandemic, is driven forward by the APEC Safe Passage Taskforce during SOM2. Safe passage initiatives from APEC economies were discussed and three proposals were endorsed. These includes (1) Thailand’s proposal for interoperability of vaccine certificates through the sharing of information necessary for verifying vaccine certificates issued by each APEC economies; (2) Thailand’s proposals to develop a one-stop information portal to consolidate travel restrictions and border requirements in APEC; and (3) Australia’s proposal on the Voluntary Principles for the Interoperability of Vaccination Certificates. These proposals will enable faster and more effective border procedures and facilitate safer and more seamless cross-border travel in the region as well as strengthen the region’s resilience against future pandemic and disruptions. Also under way is another proposal from Thailand to expand the scope of the APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) to cover a broader range of businesses such as SME entrepreneurs and
- Balance in all aspects Thailand proposed to accelerate APEC’s work on sustainability in a more holistic and integrated manner through the development of a standalone Leaders’ Statement with the working title of “Bangkok Goals on BCG Economy”, as a key deliverable. Building on the discussion at SOM1 and intersessional works, APEC Senior Officials had a productive discussion on the draft developed based on economies’ inputs, which will be further developed and submitted for endorsement by APEC leaders in Bangkok in November 2022.
The Second APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting marks the halfway point of APEC Thailand 2022. Great efforts have been put up by Thailand and all APEC economies towards achieving key deliverables. Important progress and tangible achievements have been made under all three priorities, which will be further advanced to realise the host year’s goal of more open, connected and balanced Asia-Pacific.