Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the first session of the Committee on Trade, Investment, Enterprise and Business Innovation.
Today marks a new beginning since the decision was made last year at the 78th session of the Commission to reconstitute the previous Committee on Trade and Investment into its current form.
This broadening of the scope of the Committee comes at a very apt moment.
Our landscape has changed tremendously in recent years. Even as Asia and the Pacific builds forth from the pandemic, prospects for recovery are uneven across countries, which are facing new and continued challenges exacerbated by overlapping crises.
Trade frictions, inflationary pressures, geopolitical tensions and worsening climate change complicate rebuilding efforts. At the same time, we have to recognize that not all have benefited equally from development in the region and that the less advantaged have not only often been left behind but are also the ones disproportionately affected by shocks and crises.
Yet, amidst these challenges, we must not lose sight of the opportunities available that can help us to attain more inclusive and sustainable development.
First, we should build upon the digital transformation that has only accelerated in recent years. The experience during the pandemic amply demonstrated the growing importance of digital trade and the digitalization of trade processes, whether in facilitating the flow of essential goods and services when physical trade channels were hampered or in opening doors to new economic and social opportunities.
Developments in these areas should be strengthened so they can continue to lower the barriers to participating in international trade, ease the integration of more players into value chains, and reduce carbon emissions from trade and business.
Concurrently, we should pick up the pace in incorporating sustainability concerns into trade policies and trade agreements and enhance their resilience so that trade disruptions can be minimized in times of crisis.
When it comes to Foreign Direct Investment, or FDI, Asia and the Pacific has been the leading destination and source globally since 2020. The region’s drawing power remained strong during the pandemic, as FDI inflows fell only by 4 per cent, in contrast to the double-digit drops experienced in other regions.
There is thus much promise for tapping FDI for sustainable development, as well as much urgency – given estimates that additional annual investments of at least $1.5 trillion are needed by developing countries in the region to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
Mobilizing these resources effectively, however, will require a shift in investor practices to investing for social and environmental impact, beyond profit. Governments can promote this shift by building ecosystems conducive to impact investing and by orienting towards investors and projects focusing on sustainable development sectors.
Within countries, it is heartening to see the emergence of social enterprises and inclusive businesses, models aimed at generating social and environmental value in the communities in which they do business, as well as the broader environment.
Governments in the region are starting to take supportive action on this front, such as by adopting national strategies to promote such businesses and providing tax breaks or other forms of assistance.
These are early days, however, and there is certainly much room to foster an environment that incentivizes businesses and investors to focus more on people and the planet.
Finally, Asia and the Pacific is fast becoming a hub of technological innovation, particularly of new and emerging technologies of the fourth industrial revolution that are increasingly enabling the transformation of production, manufacturing and delivery systems.
We need to accelerate the scaling up, adoption and diffusion of these technologies across countries equitably.
Excellencies, distinguished delegates,
Of course, none of us can do all this alone. Achieving sustainable development can only happen with the full commitment and collaboration of all actors across both public and private sectors.
We can do more to harness the potential of partnerships, networks and associations to ensure their alignment with sustainable development aims and enhance their capacity for bringing stakeholders together and facilitating knowledge exchange, technical support and mobilization of resources.
I look forward to your deliberations on these issues over the coming days and welcome your guidance on policy options as well as regional cooperation that can help us chart a more inclusive and sustainable path as the region moves forward.
We are committed to supporting you every step of the way.
I wish you a very successful Committee session.