Speech by H.E. General Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand, at APEC CEO Dialogues on ASEAN’s Place in APEC’s Future

Speech by H.E. General Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand, at APEC CEO Dialogues on ASEAN’s Place in APEC’s Future

วันที่นำเข้าข้อมูล 19 Nov 2020

วันที่ปรับปรุงข้อมูล 30 Nov 2022

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Unofficial Translation
Speech of H.E. General Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand
at APEC CEO Dialogues, on "ASEAN’s Place in APEC’s Future"
On 19 November 2020, at 14.30-15.00 Hrs.
Via Video Conference

         APEC Economic Leaders and distinguished guests,

  1. It is my pleasure to take part in the APEC CEO Dialogue with you all today. Thank you Khun Nigel for the introduction.
  2. The year 2020 has been a very important test for APEC. The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated lives, businesses, employment, and livelihoods. Nevertheless, APEC members, especially Malaysia, as this year’s host, have been steadfast in their cooperation to usher APEC into a new era.   
  3. The year 2020 also marks the target date of the Bogor Goals that has been APEC’s guiding compass over the past 26 years. During this time, APEC has weathered storms, and navigated through calmer waters. APEC’s relevance to the world economy is based on our clear goals, spirit of cooperation, resilience and timely response to changes. As the saying goes, “We can’t direct the wind, but we can adjust our sails.”
  4. Although APEC has yet to achieve the Bogor Goals in its entirety, but we cannot deny that that APEC has sailed far along our intended path. APEC as we know today has its own identity unlike any other forum.
  5. Today I have been asked to share my thoughts on “ASEAN’s Place in APEC’s Future”. As Thailand is a founding member of both APEC and ASEAN, let us take a quick look back on these respective organisations’s development, and look at how they can support and complement each other.
  6. APEC was founded in 1989 to drive forward the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations. ASEAN was established in 1967 to promote peace, stability and security in the region. As the world evolved, APEC and ASEAN demonstrated their readiness to tackle new challenges. The announcement of APEC's Bogor Goals in 1994 came in tandem with the success of the Uruguay Round of negotiations and the expansion of the ASEAN membership and its intensified economic cooperation in the late 1990s.
  7. Today, both APEC and ASEAN share the same goals of promoting growth and shared prosperity for the livelihood of all people in the region. At the same time, both face similar challenges that one economy cannot solve alone. These include economic recessions, pandemics and environmental degradation.
  8. One important lesson we can draw from the history of APEC and ASEAN is that their forward-looking vision and dynamic spirit of cooperation are key to their resilience and relevance.   
  9. An example of such a vision is Thailand's proposal to create a Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC). The ASEAN Leaders endorsed MPAC in 2010 which has now evolved to become the MPAC 2025. ASEAN recognised that integrated and seamless connectivity is the way forward towards inclusive development that benefits all in our society.
  10. Another important example is the initiative to enhance complementarities between the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This was initiated by Thailand as the ASEAN Coordinator on Sustainable Development Cooperation to support ASEAN’s efforts and contribution to achieve the sustainable development goals.
  11. In the current context, the COVID-19 pandemic has gravely affected health security and stability, as well as on food security and essential supplies. In response, governments have sometimes chosen policies that run counter to our long held values of free and open trade. The need to protect our people from COVID-19 has halted connectivity and disrupted trade and investment, which are vital to growth and prosperity. Big and small businesses are struggling to survive, people are losing their jobs and income as a growing number of people face the challenges of poverty.
  12. Therefore, it is our duty, as leaders of the public and the private sectors, to ensure successful collaboration with citizens through the Public-Private-People Partnership model (PPPP) to build back a new Asia-Pacific region that is robust, resilient, and leaves no one behind. The time is ripe for us to leverage on the strengths of APEC and ASEAN to promote inclusive cooperation that is complementary in order to move forward for our mutual benefit and win-win cooperation.
  13. First, we have to contain the spread of COVID-19 and address the short-term impacts to help our economies move forward. To this end, I applaud APEC and ASEAN for their cooperation and timely initiatives in combating COVID-19. This includes the establishment of the ASEAN Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies, the ASEAN Centre for Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases, the adoption of the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework, and the proposed ASEAN SME Recovery Facility, to name a few.
  14. APEC has also promptly responded to COVID-19. I commend the launch of the information-sharing platform on COVID-19 which is part of Malaysia’s initiative to create a database for business recovery (Latest and Immediate Virtual Exchange: LIVE), and China's proposal to establish a fund to support developing economies to respond to COVID-19. In addition, APEC adopted the Declaration on Facilitating the Movement of Essential Goods, especially medicines and medical supplies, as jointly proposed by New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore.
  15. As I mentioned earlier, we should create linkages between some of the initiatives under both fora to reboot and kick-off the next phase of economic expansion. However, governments' initiatives are only part of the solution. The role of the private sector will be most important in re-building trust and reviving investment and employment. The APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) and the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC) can make use of their extensive networks and expertise to help jump-start the economy.
  16. Secondly, we must reconnect global value chains. In the post-COVID-19 economy, we must reaffirm our commitment to the multilateral trading system, free and open trade and investment, integrated and seamless connectivity, especially the need to harness the potential of the digital economy and diversify global value chains. 
  17. ASEAN and Thailand can greatly contribute to APEC in these areas.
  18. The successful establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) allows for the free flow of goods and increases opportunities for trade in services and investment by leveraging on the diverse comparative advantages of member states.
  19. In addition to integration within ASEAN member states, ASEAN also attaches importance to extending economic cooperation with external partners. Last Sunday, the 10 ASEAN countries and five Dialogue Partners signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) making RCEP one of the world’s largest free trade agreements.
  20. The success of RCEP at this pivotal moment will reinvigorate regional economic integration and multilateral trade. RCEP is also a good example of an agreement that benefits all parties and can serve as a groundwork for the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific or FTAAP.
  21. Furthermore, ASEAN’s strengths also lie in regional connectivity with the potential to link Asia and the Pacific. The Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025 (MPAC 2025) serves as the main framework for ASEAN, along with other connectivity blueprints in other fora, such as ACMECS. Thailand also has tangible connectivity projects, including the Eastern Economic Corridor or EEC, the Thai Bridge Project (Saphan Thai), and a project to create connectivity between the Laem Chabang Seaport and with other international logistic hubs through the Gulf of Thailand – Andaman Sea Linkage Development. Cooperation between the public and private sectors will be key in the swift materialisation of these connectivity projects.
  22. When combined with APEC’s strengths in regulations, governance and advanced digital system, ASEAN and APEC can complement one another. By building on existing frameworks, we can connect the connectivities in all dimensions.
  23. Lastly, the spread of COVID-19 has exposed weaknesses in our economies, especially those sectors unable to adapt to rapid changes. At the same time, it has highlighted strengths that have helped sustain many economies in these difficult times. For Thailand, these strengths include the areas of agriculture and public health.
  24. Thus, now is the time to turn this crisis into opportunities. Each economy must re-consider their perspectives on development and prioritise strong, resilient, inclusive and sustainable growth.
  25. It is imperative that we build on these strengths and make them stronger. At the same time, we must address and manage our weaknesses to build resilience and immunities for future new challenges. We, in this sense, does not refer to just the governments of APEC and ASEAN, but also includes the private sector. The private sector plays an important role in embracing responsible business conduct, including responsibility to society and environment as well as the promotion of a circular economy.
  26. We must pay special attention to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), women, youth and other vulnerable groups. In this regard, the public and private sectors can join hands to support them by providing them with access to capital. For instance, the financial sector could provide loans and the government will act as a guarantor. Moreover, educational institutions could collaborate with the private sector to produce curricula or training programmes for capacity building in innovation and technology. We can cooperate to build on the initiative to create a recovery facility for SMEs to support SMEs in a tangible manner.
  27. Economies must embrace their strengths. To this end, I would like to give examples of Thailand’s strengths that have sustained us throughout the current crisis, and may be beneficial to future cooperation within the Asia-Pacific.
  28. First is Thailand’s strong agricultural sector which is an important foundation for the Thai economy. The agricultural sector adapted to the constantly changing environment and production continued uninterrupted. This enabled Thailand to maintain its status as a major food producer and exporter even at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and helped ensure food security for Thailand and the world.
  29. Second is our robust public health system that efficiently provided high quality services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our health care system is largely based on the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and we are ready to share our experiences in this area.
  30. Furthermore, Thailand places great importance on access to medical supplies, equipment and services, including the development of COVID-19 vaccines that are equitably accessible by all. This is one possible area of collaboration between APEC and ASEAN.

    Distinguished guests,
  31. I am pleased that tomorrow, APEC leaders will endorse the APEC Post-2020 Vision that will guide our cooperation for the next 20 years.
  32. For me, APEC must keep on sailing forward in a strong, resilient, inclusive and sustainable manner.
  33. As the host of APEC in 2022, Thailand will build-on and ensure continuity of the priorities during Malaysia’s and New Zealand’s host years. We will carefully consider the challenges of the post-COVID-19 world in addressing our priorities, including
    (1) promotion of free and open trade and investment, and support for the multilateral trading system and regional economic integration; (2) digital transformation; (3) inclusive and sustainable growth, including responsible business conduct, environmental conservation, governance and access to funding; (4) well-being, and (5) food security and agriculture.
  34. To this end, Thailand will strive to build bridges between APEC and other regional fora, including ASEAN, ACMECS and BIMSTEC (Thailand will chair BIMSTEC during 2021 – 2022), as well as the business sector of each forum. We intend to maximize the strengths from each forum to create synergies and complement one another without overlapping to achieve strong, resilient, sustainable and inclusive growth for the benefit of all our people in the Asia-Pacific.
  35. Thank you.