Webinar on “Post Covid-19 Economic Recovery and the Future of APEC”

In this webinar, Dr Suphat Suphachalasai, Dr Denis Hew and Dr Jayant Menon discussed the future direction of APEC, the current initiatives and post Covid-19 economic recovery.


Friday, 10 June 2022 – Dr Suphat Suphachalasai (Associate Professor and a Commissioner at the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications of Thailand), Dr Dennis Hew (Director of APEC Policy Support Unit) and Dr Jayant Menon (Senior Fellow at the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute) spoke in a webinar titled “Post Covid-19 Economic Recovery and the Future of APEC” held by ISEAS. Moderated by Dr Cassey Lee (Senior Fellow and Coordinator of the Regional Economic Studies Programme, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute), invited speakers discussed the theme of APEC Thailand 2022, recent economic trends and the short and long-term effects of post-covid-19 recovery.

Dr Suphat Suphachalasai shared some of the initiatives and themes of APEC Thailand 2022. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Dr Suphat began his presentation by elaborating on the main theme of APEC Thailand 2022 namely: “Open, Connect and Balance”. The first theme Open focuses on facilitating trade and investment by removing trade barriers, deepening economic integration, leveraging digitalisation and innovation, and creating an environment for inclusive and sustainable growth. Connect is defined as reconnecting the region through the resumption of cross-border travel, strengthening public health and business mobility. Balance focuses on inclusivity and sustainability. Next, he shared the four goals of the Bio-circular-green (BCG) economy, the cornerstone of APEC Thailand 2022, (1) climate Action including Net Zero Greenhouse gas emissions, (2) sustainable trade and investment, (3) sustainable management of resources and conservation of the environment and biodiversity, and (4) Resource efficiency and sustainable waste management. He ended his presentation by sharing the sub-theme of the APEC Thailand Conference.

Dr Denis Hew presented some recent economic trends and APEC’s future direction. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Dr Dennis began by highlighting the expected slow down of APEC GDP growth. APEC GDP growth is expected to contract by 2.7 percent in 2022 compared to 2021. The declining growth could be attributed to the rising risks and uncertainties caused by the rising inflation rates, debt and the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War. Next, he discussed some of the recent trends of inflation, world trade volume and foreign direct investments (FDI) in APEC countries. He raised some concerns about the uneven FDI, especially the decreasing greenfield investments which contribute to technological and productivity growth.

Next, he shared the road map for APEC sustainable recovery. In the immediate term, the priority remains on ensuring that people living in APEC countries are healthy so that economies can recover, reopen and rebuild. For the medium-term to long-term, APEC focuses on implementing inclusive policies such as empowering women in the labour market, attaining growth and prosperity through environmentally sustainable approaches, integrating the BCG model into the region’s economies and ensuring food security through utilising digital and innovative approaches.

Dr Jayant spoke on some of the post-covid-19 short-term outlook, long-term megatrends and emerging issues in ASEAN countries. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Dr Jayant’s presentation focused on the ASEAN economies. Despite the ongoing uncertainty, ASEAN is expected to rebound strongly in 2022 with 4.9 to 5.3 percent growth and continue into 2023 which is greater than the world average of 2.9 percent. However, countries such as Myanmar, Laos and Thailand are lagging behind with only 1.6, 3.2 and 3.3 percent growth respectively.

As the world digitalised, low skills workers will be displaced in the initial phase and labour mobility across the border will be essential for minimising the adjustment cost amid the rising protectionism sentiments. With the divergent demographics in ASEAN, younger nations such as Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar can export their labour to their ageing neighbour to supply their workforce. The next long-term trend will be the need to transit to green energy sources and all these trends mentioned will result in persistent or rising inequalities. These issues need to be addressed to prevent disruption to the social and political order. The presentation concluded with emerging issues such as the evolving regional architecture, ASEAN centrality and supply chain disruption.

The webinar drew an audience of 79 participants from both Singapore and abroad. The panel then discussed a range of topics during the Question-and-Answer segment which included topics such as integrating regenerative tourism with the industry, impact on the ASEAN financial market due to the rising interest rates of major economies, reasons why ASEAN countries are more resistant to inflation compared to the west, the possible enduring legacy of Thailand in the APEC 2022 conference, initiatives and missing data required to make BCG effective beyond 2022. The webinar concluded with remarks on how geopolitics has impacted the APEC activities this year and beyond.