APEC Safe Passage Taskforce and related Working Groups Advancing the Key Priority on Enhancing APEC’s Connectivity in All Dimensions
Thailand is hosting APEC 2022 at a critical juncture as the world continues to grapple with the disruptions from COVID-19.
Cross-border restrictions, imposed in response to the pandemic, have tremendously impacted APEC economies. The travel and tourism industries have been hit particularly hard while business travel, which is the key element of international trade, investment and business activity, was also interrupted. Recognising that reopening borders is a prerequisite for economic recovery, reconnecting
the region is one of Thailand’s key host year priorities. Thailand will enhance connectivity in all dimensions, and push forward
the resumption of safe and seamless travel, as well as greater business mobility in the longer-term as key deliverables.
The First APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM1) has taken the necessary first steps to reconnect the region safely and seamlessly. The first APEC Safe Passage Taskforce (SPTF) Meeting, chaired by Mr. Cherdchai Chaivaivid, Thailand SOM, was convened
on 21 February 2022. The SPTF was established in January 2022, following the recommendations of APEC’s business leaders,
to coordinate cross-border travel resumption and drive forward Thailand’s host year priority – Connect in All Dimensions.
During the SPTF meeting, APEC economies and subject matter experts discussed ways to promote safe and seamless
cross-border travel at both regional and global levels. Representatives from International organisations, including the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and ASEAN were invited to provide updates on their initiatives on safe passage and suggestions for how APEC can complement these initiatives.
The meeting also discussed 6 proposals submitted by member economies, covering issues such as interoperability of vaccine certificates, safe and sustainable tourism and broadening the APEC Business Travel Card scheme. Among these were 3 proposals
from Thailand, namely (1) Interoperability of Vaccination Certificates : Sharing of Technical Specifications so that COVID-19 vaccination certificates issued by APEC economies can be easily verified across the region; (2) APEC Information Portal for Safe Passage Across the Region to create a one-stop portal for information on international travel within APEC member economies;
and (3) A more inclusive APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) by expanding its scope to cover a broader range of businesses
and professionals. All these proposals are expected to be implemented within this year.
APEC’s efforts on reconnecting the region require coordination between various working groups for technical and cross-cutting issue discussions. Preceding the APEC Safe Passage Taskforce (SPTF) Meeting, Thailand’s proposals were presented to relevant
sub-fora meetings such as the Health Working Group (HWG), Business Mobility Group (BMG), as well as Friends of the Chair
on Connectivity meetings.
The Safe Passage process was initiated during APEC 2021 with strong support from member economies and the business community. As host of APEC 2022, Thailand has taken on and further concretised this initiative. The SPTF will meet again at the next Senior Officials’ meeting to discuss actionable outcomes. Resuming safe and seamless travel has increasingly become a matter
of urgency, especially with many economies seeking to re-open their borders and balancing health and the economy. Thailand,
as Chair of the SPTF, will lead APEC’s collective efforts to implement certain initiatives that can timely deliver tangible solutions
to reinvigorate the travel and tourism sector and jumpstart the region’s economic recovery. It will also work towards laying a solid foundation in safe passage for APEC’s long-term resilience against potential future pandemics and enhanced connectivity in
all dimensions for the benefit of our people and businesses.