Thank you Bill. Good afternoon, everyone. I’m pleased to be here with all of you today.
I would like to thank everyone for joining, and especially thank CSIS and NCAPEC for making this important event happen.
This afternoon I will outline U.S. priorities in the lead up to APEC Leaders’ Week and some of the work we have undertaken in APEC to respond to COVID-19.
It’s been a tough year for many, and APEC is no exception, but following a pause earlier this year when all economies focused largely on the pandemic, we have worked hard to regain our momentum on core priorities.
AMM and AELM Preparations
Malaysia’s host year will culminate next week during APEC Leaders Week, which will include the Joint Ministerial Meeting on November 16, the CEO Dialogues on November 19-20, and the Leaders Meeting on November 20 – with all of these events being held virtually.
Leaders are expected to produce a declaration reflecting Malaysia’s theme of “Optimising Human Potential towards a Resilient Future of Shared Prosperity. Pivot, Prioritise, Progress.”
Leaders are also expected to endorse a new vision which will guide APEC’s work in the next decades. I will touch on APEC’s Post-2020 Vision later in my remarks.
USTR is still finalizing their participation in next week’s meetings, but I can confirm that Deputy Secretary of State Biegun will represent the State Department at the Joint Ministerial Meeting on Monday. We are still confirming our head of delegation for the Leaders’ Meting.
We are looking forward to a successful outcomes this year at all of the high-level meetings during Leaders Week.
U.S. Priorities for 2020
Since the spring, the United States along with the rest of APEC economies have prioritized reorienting APEC’s agenda toward economic recovery during and post COVID-19.
To that end, we have focused on minimizing disruptions and maintaining momentum on APEC’s core work such as trade and the digital economy, and the long-term work on improving the investment climate and regulatory environment.
These efforts, along with APEC’s work in supporting those that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, will be critical to restoring economic growth and helping economies withstand future shocks.
We are pressing forward on our work on women’s economic empowerment, including support for the implementation of the La Serena Roadmap on Women and Inclusive Growth, and to better understand the economic impacts of structural barriers to women’s economic participation.
We have also been working night and day – literally! to develop a new vision for APEC that, once launched, will provide direction for our work in APEC for decades to come.
I will touch on a few of our 2020 priorities and efforts to advance these priorities now.
Trade and Investment
APEC’s work on trade and investment is APEC’s central pillar, and we remain very active in proposing, supporting, and implementing many trade and investment initiatives during 2020 and beyond.
On digital trade, our work includes encouraging economies to adhere to high-standard digital trade principles and to commit to a Permanent Customs Duty Moratorium on Electronic Transmissions. We also are holding a series of digital trade policy dialogues to bring together APEC economies, businesses, and academia to discuss key issues in the digital economy, such as the free flow of data and regulatory standards and the evolvement of digital trade agreements.
On services liberalization, our work centers on strong support to expand APEC’s Services Index as a means to create a policy and regulatory environment that is conducive to open and competitive markets for services.
On trade facilitation, we are leading three capacity-building programs aimed at helping economies to fully implement their WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement obligations; to reduce wait times and costs at the border; and to simplify customs procedures. Meaningful action on trade facilitation is also fundamental to ensuring the flow of essential goods and services to respond to COVID-19.
Turning to the digital economy, the United States is pursuing a few new and innovative workstreams in APEC that aim to leverage digital technologies to respond to and recover from COVID-19.
COVID-19 has brought into sharp focus the importance to all of us of digitization, cross border data flows, and data privacy .
I will highlight a few new areas of work on the digital economy.
First is our project that seeks to promote innovative telehealth solutions across APEC. We are doing an APEC-wide review focused on case studies that highlight best practices in the evolving policy environment to promote and increase access to telehealth solutions during and following COVID-19. In particular, the study is looking at how APEC can identify and reduce barriers in the telehealth industry.
Second, we are also supporting a project to highlight cybersecurity risk management policies that help to prevent massive economic and business disruptions, especially as many companies and governments make unprecedented shifts to virtual operations using digital technologies due to the pandemic.
To this end, the United States plans to host a virtual cybersecurity policy roundtable early next year for economies, industry, and other stakeholders to share resources and best practices on cybersecurity risk management. We hope to start a conversation on what APEC can do going forward with industry and economies to facilitate trade in the region.
Finally, the United States is leading a discussion aimed at globalizing the Cross Border Privacy Rules System and allowing equal participation by non-APEC members through the establishment of the Cross Border Privacy Rules System in a stand-alone forum.
Women’s Economic Empowerment
One of our top priorities for APEC remains supporting women’s economic empowerment across the region. We are currently working across economies and sub-fora to move these efforts forward. I’ll highlight some of our key efforts.
In 2019, under Chile’s leadership, APEC launched the La Serena Roadmap on Women and Inclusive Growth, an effort we support heavily and that aligns with our goals through the White House-led Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) Initiative. This year we are finalizing the implementation plan for the Roadmap, which will require, among other things, that all sub-fora work plans include women’s economic empowerment into their programs.
A U.S.-led partnership between the Small and Medium Enterprises Working Group and the Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy led to the creation of a Women in e-Commerce toolkit, which aims to support women entrepreneurs.
We are also supporting efforts on structural reform and women’s empowerment under the Economic Committee to better identify the legal and regulatory barriers to women’s economic participation and understand their economic impacts.
Structural barriers to women’s economic participation have been magnified by the pandemic as, for example, women often bear the lion’s share of teaching children out of school while working full time jobs.
These barriers and the need to place women at the center of recovery efforts were referred to in the recently adopted Women and the Economy Forum statement.
Moving to structural reform, the United States continues to push ahead with long-term work to improve the investment climate and the business regulatory environment in the region.
APEC’s work on structural reform will be critical to restoring economic growth and helping economies withstand future shocks.
We are pleased that the Economic Committee has endorsed the third phase of the Ease of Doing Business Initiative. We have and will continue to adapt this workstream, to help economies respond to the economic challenges from COVID-19.
We continue to work with APEC economies to further improve good regulatory practices in the area of stakeholder consultation to rule-making.
Looking ahead to next year, we have a few exciting projects planned. In response to feedback and input from industry, we are launching a project on digital permitting, which will help economies use digital tools to improve the issuance of government licenses and permits.
Additionally, the United States will be hosting a workshop on developing a modern credit infrastructure by implementing internationally recognized legal frameworks and best practices. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need to support business operations – including through extending credit, and has brought a sharp focus on the need to assess the effect of modern technologies on legal structures for secured credit.
Human Capital Development
Turning to human capital development, research suggests the world risks a growing shortage of digitally-skilled workers, including in the APEC region, which represents nearly 60% of the global workforce.
To that end, our APEC Closing the Digital Skills Gap Report seeks to ensure economies are creating policies for workforce development consistent with the digital future, particularly in light of COVID-19 impacts on the workforce.
Finally, under Malaysia’s leadership, we are very close to finalizing negotiations of the Post-2020 Vision.
Throughout the negotiations, we have been focused on delivering a concise and high-level vision that focuses on APEC’s role in the future: facilitating trade and investment across the region as well as using technology and innovation as drivers for strong economic growth. The goal is for Leaders to endorse the Vision on November 20th.
The endorsement of this vision is this year’s signature APEC deliverable, which we hope will send an important signal of APEC’s continued importance over the next few decades to fostering trade and investment and income generation in the Asia-Pacific.
I want to thank you again for your time and I look forward to the conversation this morning, including how APEC can support economic recovery in the region during and post COVID-19.
Thank you very much.