Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit has affirmed Thais must have equal access to COVID-19 vaccines and called for border restrictions to ease during the APEC trade ministers’ meeting.
Trade ministers from the 21 APEC economies and business leaders from the APEC Business Advisory Council took part in policy discussions with a focus on tackling pressing trade challenges via video conference.
The two-day 2021 APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting (MRT), hosted virtually by New Zealand, ended on Saturday. There were three group discussions. One involved exchanging opinions on the regional economy and regional economic groupings; another discussed how to deal with economic impacts of the pandemic, and the third group the economic recovery after COVID-19.
Mr Laksanawisit told the meeting the pandemic has affected the business sector and economic growth in the region, adding Thailand has dealt with the crisis by adopting modern trade models such as online trade and business matching to provide small and medium-sized entrepreneurs (SMEs) and micro-SMEs with an opportunity to export their goods.
Mr Laksanawisit said Thailand has supported connectivity among APEC countries by calling for restrictions on international travel to be relaxed.
He also said Thailand will reopen its tourism industry, with Phuket to be the first province to welcome back foreign tourists and waive the quarantine requirement for those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 under the so-called “Phuket Tourism Sandbox” programme, starting on 1st July.
Mr Laksanawisit said the government is working to ensure Thais have equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and supports moves to ease restrictions on cross-border goods transport and exempt taxes on medical supplies. Thailand will speed up its vaccination drive to cover as many people as possible to boost confidence in regional cooperation.
The government has also supported sustainable trade practices such as promoting its bio-circular-green economy (BCG) development scheme as a model for post-COVID economic recovery, Mr Laksanawisit said.
The BCG project focuses on local industries such as agriculture and food, healthcare and medical sector, energy and biomaterials, and tourism and the creative economy.