The first cluster of APEC meetings in 2020 was received by a regional outbreak of a new strain of coronavirus that has already affected thousands. The global community was just coming to terms with the potential effects of COVID-19’s spread when activities among officials from around the Asia-Pacific region began on 3 February 2020 here in Putrajaya.
APEC working groups and committees still met, however, to discuss work plans and agendas to be advanced in 2020, a red-letter year for APEC. The meetings covered many topics, such as trade and investment, structural reform, business mobility, sustainable development, and corruption.
Among the groups that met was the APEC Health Working Group, which traces its origins to the multilateral response to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak 18 years ago, and whose continued activity has just become a regional first priority.
According to the Chair of APEC Senior Officials, Mr Hairil Yahri Yaacob, the fact that APEC members came together despite the health scare proved the solidarity and resilience of the region, and was an example of how economies can rise together to shared challenges.
“I would like to express our appreciation to APEC member economies that put their faith in Malaysia’s leadership and made it a point to participate in the meetings,” said Mr Yaacob, during his opening remarks opening the First Senior Officials Meeting of APEC 2020.
He emphasised that the well-being of the people was given utmost priority and various safety and precautionary measures were put in place to ensure these gatherings went smoothly.
He noted that Malaysia, as host, even took advantage of advancements in technology to make remote participation through videoconferencing a seamless experience. This enabled members who could not travel due to health-related domestic issues to participate remotely from various cities in other economies.
“Throughout these 17 days, we saw participation from various stakeholders in meetings, workshops, activities and side events,” Yaacob said. “We also saw strong collaboration between the public and private sectors especially during policy dialogues.”
“This was something that Malaysia did not anticipate but we managed to put in place necessary measures to mitigate the situation,” Yaacob said. “In managing the risks and threats of this virus, the APEC 2020 Secretariat worked very closely with the Ministry of Health Malaysia and other relevant authorities to ensure the safety of delegates and all parties involved in the meetings.”