APEC prepares for reopening travel in Asia-Pacific

JAKARTA – Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies are now preparing to reopen travel in their region and have committed to safe travel resumption by considering harmonization and interoperability mechanisms that will  facilitate movement of people and reconnect business mobility.

“Reconnecting the Asia-Pacific region is a priority, an urgent task for us all,” said APEC Safe Passage Taskforce chairman, Cherdchai Chaivaivid in a written statement issued earlier.

“Restarting cross-border travel will indubitably support economic recovery and at the same time, reemphasize APEC’s relevance and efficiency in the midst of the ever-changing global landscape,” Chaivaivid said.

The APEC official said it is crucial for APEC economies to coordinate policies and move towards harmonization. “We need to make certain that we deliver something meaningful and practical by at least this May, otherwise, it will be too late,” he added.

During its first meeting, the Safe Passage Taskforce assessed several proposals and policy options that complement global travel initiatives while addressing gaps and concerns, such as ways to ensure that the resumption of travel will be inclusive and non-discriminatory.

Member economies presented their proposals for contributing to the safe resumption of cross-border travel, including non-binding principles for the interoperability of vaccination certificates in the region, which will support the smooth operation of international travel.

“These proposals will lay a solid foundation in the safe passage for APEC for long-term resilience,”  Chaivaivid said, adding that having a set of principles will guide APEC to work towards interoperability and safe and sustainable travel as well as enhance connectivity.

“Leaders and ministers have been extremely clear in their directives for APEC to facilitate safe and seamless resumption of cross-border travel, especially through promoting information exchange and coordinating measures related to cross-border movement of people, including in connection with air and maritime crew, and Covid-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) testing and vaccination certificates,” Chaivaivid said. 

“APEC ministers are also committed to exploring specific initiatives, solutions, and best practices to facilitate safe travel in the region, paving the way for a return to people moving across borders for business, tourism, and educational purposes,” he added.

Member economies have also discussed mechanisms for information sharing internally among member economies to share best practices, as well as for a one-stop information platform on international travel for the public within the APEC.

Policy and technical recommendations for international travel were also provided by guest speakers from the World Health Organization and International Civil Aviation Organization.

Members also heard how other regional groupings are operationalizing their own travel passages, including under the Asean Travel Corridor Arrangement Framework.

“We also recognize that a gap still exists in our work with regard to facilitating essential travelers, including aircrew and seafarers. We have to step up our efforts in these areas and move ahead in getting proposed actions and initiatives going,” Chaivaivid said. (Antara)