What APEC can do amidst COVID-19 Pandemic? Respond to G20 Emergency Summit, Quickly.

The leaders of the G20, the grouping of the twenty most powerful economies in the world, have just conducted a virtual summit recently based on the initiative of this year’s chair, Saudi Arabia. The emergency summit was mainly trying to address the COVID-19 pandemic, and to call for global cooperation among the world’s twenty largest economies.

Tweet by former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

The summit came into fruition after experts and world leaders called for the summit, outlining the urgency of conducting such important meeting. One of the most vocal amongst them is the former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. On February 29, 2020, Rudd writes that “if [he] were in office today, [he]’d pick up the phone to Washington and seek a meeting of G20 Leaders, Health Ministers & Finance Ministers.” — as recorded by Twitter.

Soon after the G20 virtual summit took place, he claimed victory saying, “Finally! An emergency G20 Leaders meeting! … That’s why I’ve been raising this since February.”

But hold on. Maybe it should not have been a victory after all. Critics raised that the communique produced by the meeting was widely vague, with “language on the health dimensions of the crisis largely repeats prior commitments” — at least according to Goodman, Segal, and Sobel from the Simon Chair in Political Economy of the CSIS.

“Assessing the G20 Virtual Summit” by CSIS — March 27, 2020.

They added that “the statement lacked concrete proposals, and questions remain about the extent to which major economies are committed to following through with a concerted international response to the crisis.”

And compared to its response to 2008–09 financial crisis — the birth of the organization, G20’s response this time clearly does not match its forceful role 12 years back.

So, what can countries do, to mend the drawbacks of the recent G20 Virtual Summit?

G20’s sister organization, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation — or the APEC, could complement G20’s effort by also conducting similar meeting.

What should be discussed, and why?

It is clear that most APEC economies were the ones who were first impacted by the pandemic. APEC 21 member economies include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, The Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Republic of Korea, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, United States, and Viet Nam.

Map of APEC Member Economies.

The first reason is because China, which was first hit by the pandemic, is expected to see a decline in the number of people infected by the SARS-CoV-2 that caused the COVID-19 — therefore, is expected to see a flattened curve. Second, South Korea has been applauded as the country has managed to control the spread of the disease — and therefore has been able to control and flatten the curve. Third, Singapore has also taken strict measures. Despite being a transit hub where thousands of people are moving across the island to reach their final destination, Singapore has been able to suppress the number to remain low.

Fourth and arguably the most interesting reason, Chinese Taipei or commonly known as Taiwan, located roughly 100 miles from China, has been able to keep the number of confirmed cases low. APEC can arguably become the most effective international platform for Chinese Taipei to share their best practices, given the fact that APEC is the only international organization that Chinese Taipei can participate in — I suppose besides the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Given that Chinese Taipei cannot formally join the World Health Organization (WHO), APEC can serve as a platform where Chinese Taipei conducts a two-way exchanges of best practices with its APEC fellow member economies. This is true, building on the fact that the recently published APEC Health Working Group Statement on COVID-19 voices their support to the works that are done by the WHO.

APEC Health Working Group Statement on COVID-19.

These economies could share their best practices to other member economies on how to fight the COVID disease, to keep the number of confirmed cases low, and to mend the economic consequences of the pandemic. This is especially true when we look into the fifth reason, the United States is now having the world’s highest confirmed case as of March 28, 2020.

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