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Health Challenges Unite Asia Pacific Leaders in Effort to Close Gaps in Economic Recovery

December 1, 2020

Lessons Learned for Industry and Governments

Economic leaders from the 21 member1 economies of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum committed to coordinated and constructive health cooperation during their annual virtual meeting on November 20. The Leaders elevated Asia-Pacific regional cooperation in the health sector as their top priority for the first time in over a decade. Under the chairmanship of the Malaysia government as the 2020 host, the APEC Leaders recognized that multilateral and multi-sectoral cooperation in the areas of research and development, production, manufacturing and distribution of diagnostic tests, essential medical products and services, therapeutics and vaccines will be key to ending the COVID-19 pandemic and restoring the APEC region’s economic dynamism. Leaders specifically recognized the importance of science, technology, and incentivizing innovation in the region’s post COVID-19 recovery as well as the contribution of digital technologies to the sustainability of health systems and the move towards universal health coverage.

This is promising news as economies throughout the Asia-Pacific region are now undergoing second and third waves of the COVID-19 pandemic. At a time when multilateral cooperation has been limited due to divergent approaches to trade and investment, the health and medical life sciences sector remains a vibrant area for cooperation between governments and industry.

Under APEC’s leadership, regional and multi-sectoral cooperation accelerated this year despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the inability to meet in person and the constraints of operating across nearly a dozen time zones. APEC enhanced efforts to promote trade in safe and quality drug products and ingredients. In particular, APEC member governments and industry partners focused on implementation of the APEC Supply Chain Security Toolkit for Medical Products - a comprehensive resource that addresses areas of vulnerability in the medical product supply chain and the lifecycle of medical products. Through virtual capacity building workshops, government and industry representatives worked to disseminate and implement the APEC Supply Chain Toolkit’s best practices to prevent and detect substandard and falsified medical products.

APEC also focused on the development of the APEC Action Plan on Vaccination Across the Life-Course. In partnership with international organizations as well as academic and industry stakeholders, the Action Plan provides a comprehensive strategy to enhance the resilience and sustainability of immunization programs in APEC member economies over the next decade. Governments that invest in resilient immunization programs will enable the effective delivery of new vaccines as they become available, which will be of crucial importance in the near future as the first COVID-19 vaccines are approved by regulatory authorities.

Numerous heads of state, multinational CEOs, and academic leaders recognized the role of health security not only for citizens’ health and wellbeing, but as a catalyst for economic recovery during the virtual APEC CEO Dialogues held on November 19th and 20th. Many observed that domestic healthcare policy reforms in APEC economies have been accelerated by two to three years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this unprecedented era of healthcare policy acceleration and health systems transformation, APEC continues to play an important role in facilitating knowledge sharing and cooperation between government, industry, and academia. Indeed, the strengthening of health systems, especially in emerging economies, may be the ultimate legacy of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Asia-Pacific region.

It is now clear that APEC will continue to build upon the lessons learned of the COVID-19 pandemic response for years to come. During the APEC Leaders meeting on November 20th, health and life sciences cooperation was cemented as a key plank of the APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040, a new blueprint for the organization over the next two decades. Under the pillar Strong, Balanced, Secure, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth, APEC Leaders committed to “building economies that are resilient to health crises and pandemics” and “fostering growth that brings palpable benefits and greater health and wellbeing to all people”.

C&M International works at the forefront of many APEC working groups, including those related to the health and life sciences. We work to foster unique collaboration and initiatives between industry, government, and other stakeholders to promote smart policymaking and to advance an enabling environment for health innovation across the Asia-Pacific.

For more information, please contact the professional(s) listed below, or your regular Crowell & Moring contact.

Robert Holleyman
Partner and C&M International President & CEO – Washington, D.C.
Phone: +1.202.624.2505
Patricia L. Wu
C&M International Vice President and Managing Director – Washington, D.C.
Phone: +1.202.624.2963
Ryan MacFarlane
C&M International Director – Washington, D.C.
Phone: +1.202.624.2575
Eric Obscherning
C&M International Associate Director – Washington, D.C.(CMI)

1 APEC's 21 Member Economies are the United States; Australia; Brunei Darussalam; Canada; Chile; China; Hong Kong, China; Indonesia; Japan; Malaysia; Mexico; New Zealand; Papua New Guinea; Peru; The Philippines; Russia; Singapore; Republic of Korea; Chinese Taipei; Thailand; and Viet Nam.