APEC Safe Passage Taskforce Meeting at SOM3: Beyond Reconnecting the Region and towards Crisis-Resilient Asia-Pacific
The Third APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM3) and related meetings currently being held in Chiang Mai continues to drive forward APEC 2022’s priority to reconnect the Asia-Pacific region safely and seamlessly, following disruptions in the travel and tourism industries from COVID-19. The final meeting of the APEC Safe Passage Taskforce, established under Thailand’s host year, was held on 24 August 2022. APEC officials and experts took stock of key achievements and discussed the way forward to ensure crisis-proof resilience against future pandemics and other disruptions.
The Meeting of the APEC Safe Passage Taskforce (SPTF) convened on the sidelines of SOM3 before it is due to sunset in November 2022. Chaired by Mr. Cherdchai Chaivaivid, Thailand’s APEC Senior Official, the Meeting focused on three key issues that underline the essence of the SPTF’s work since the beginning of the year.
First is engagement with key stakeholders to ensure that APEC’s work complements global safe passage initiatives. Representatives of international organisations, including the WHO and OECD, were invited to share their initiatives and exchange ideas with APEC Officials. Having played an instrumental role in the establishment of the SPTF, the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) continues to provide valuable insights and practical recommendations from the private sector.
Second is translating proposals and initiatives into a meaningful implementation that contributes to safer and more seamless travel. Proposals that were endorsed during the last SOM2 are being implemented, including Thailand’s initiative to create an APEC travel information portal, which is set to launch in September 2022. The “Voluntary Principles on Interoperability of Vaccination Certificates” also endorsed at SOM2, have been put into practical application by many economies including Australia, Indonesia, Peru, and Singapore, whose experiences were shared during the Meeting. In addition, the Meeting also discussed a number of new and ongoing initiatives, such as an inclusive APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC), safe passage for maritime crews, and health technologies in cross-border travel.
Lastly, as the future of COVID-19 is still uncertain and the pandemic of this nature can reemerge, the SPTF underscores the importance of preparedness and building resilience for cross-border travel within the region. With its mandate coming to an end, the SPTF highlighted the importance of having an APEC mechanism to carry out APEC’s safe passage coordination work in order to continue addressing ongoing challenges and create long-term resilience in the face of future pandemics or crises that may affect cross-border travel. The APEC Policy Support Unit (PSU)’s study on ‘COVID-19 and Cross-Border Mobility in the APEC Region: Addressing Uncertainties at the Border’, provides a foundation for SPTF’s recommendations to carry on APEC’s work on safe passage going forward.
Thailand, as host of APEC2022, has taken many important steps, especially through the SPTF, to reconnect the region, reignite the travel and tourism sectors and revive the region’s economy from the impact of COVID-19. Beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, Thailand also strives for a crisis-resilient Asia-Pacific that can withstand and better manage any future disruption.