By PRIME SARMIENTO and YANG HAN in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2021-10-01 12:46
Improved infrastructure and advances in technology will help deliver a green economic recovery in Asia. [Photo/IC]
Region's support for free trade also will help underpin growth, forum told
Improved infrastructure and advances in technology will help deliver a green economic recovery in Asia, which also stands to gain from an intensifying shift toward free trade, an economic forum was told on Thursday.
Participants in the Asia Economic and Entrepreneurship Summit, or AEES, encouraged Asian economies to ratify free-trade agreements－like the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP－as they will help sustain growth after the upheavals caused by the pandemic. Free trade will also put economies on a more inclusive and climate-friendly development path that is aligned with the socioeconomic targets set under the UN's Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement addressing climate change.
The AEES is an annual regional economic forum organized by Kuala Lumpur think tank the KSI Strategic Institute for Asia Pacific, the Pacific Basin Economic Council and China Daily.
In his welcoming speech at the online event, KSI President Michael Yeoh said Asia needs "innovation, investment and infrastructure" to achieve an economic rebound and sustained growth. But economic recovery "also requires inclusive and sustainable development, and a much stronger commitment" to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Hiroshi Oka, the Japanese ambassador to Malaysia, and other participants spoke of their support for the RCEP and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP, another free-trade agreement. They said these pacts will help sustain long-term global growth.
Justin Lee, Australia's high commissioner to Malaysia, said: "Free trade drives economic growth, improves living standards and creates the conditions for peaceful coexistence."
Lee said Australia supports the RCEP and the CPTPP, noting that the country is moving to ratify the RCEP, and he commended Japan, China and Singapore for ratifying the world's largest free-trade pact.
Fadillah Yusof, Malaysia's senior minister and minister of works, said in his opening keynote address that access to "reliable, quality, efficient and affordable infrastructure services" is critical for reducing poverty, promoting economic growth, supporting social development and building resilient communities.
Jayant Menon, visiting senior fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore, said governments in the region need to shift their focus from the short term to a more long-term agenda. He noted that the spike in unemployment, poverty and inequality caused by the pandemic "will not go away anytime" soon.
Guo Wanda, executive vice-president of the China Development Institute in Shenzhen, said that the digital economy has become very important for China's economic growth. He also cited the fast growth in high-tech manufacturing and the manufacturing of electric vehicles.
Andrew Weir, chairman of the Pacific Basin Economic Council, told the forum that "COVID has acted as a catalyst" for change in terms of digital transformation.
Experts also discussed how the pandemic has created opportunities for Asian countries to embrace green development and digitalization.
"The COVID-19 pandemic is only a wake-up call," said Albert Oung, chair of the green economy task force at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific Sustainable Business Network.
Oung said the pandemic had created opportunities for rapid change because there were already technical solutions available.
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