After historic economic contraction, APEC to see better outlook in 2021

There are already signs of recovery, including coming from improved manufacturing activities, bringing growth projections of 5.2 percent for 2021.

Economic growth in the APEC region declined by 3.7 percent in the first six months of 2020 and is expected to contract by 2.5 percent for the whole year, or equal to an output loss of US$1.8 trillion. This will be the first time that the region’s economy will contract in three decades, according to a report by the APEC Policy Support Unit.

“APEC was formed more than 30 years ago and has seen economic recessions, financial crises, commodity price volatility, pandemics and terrorist attacks. Yet, in terms of economic losses, this has been a year like no other,” explained Dr Denis Hew, Director of the APEC Policy Support Unit.

Unemployment rates among APEC economies have surged due to the economic fallout from COVID-19, averaging 4.8 percent as of September 2020, with more than 74 million people looking for work, while consumption, trade and investments have reversed to contractions that are bigger than expected.

Household consumption shrunk by 7.1 percent during the first half of the year from an average growth rate of 3 percent in the first half of 2019. Investments also contracted by 11.2 percent, following modest growth of 1.1 percent during the same period last year.

Growth in the volume of merchandise exports fell by 6.2 percent and imports recorded a sharp decline of 7.2 percent in the first half of 2020, down from tepid growth in the first half of 2019.

“Trade performance in the APEC region was adversely affected by the combined impact of the temporary closure of borders, disruptions in global supply chains, and persistent trade and technology tensions,” Dr Hew added.

Positive contribution to growth comes from government spending with an increase of 2.8 percent in the first half of 2020, reflecting fiscal measures implemented by economies to provide support to various sectors, in particular to bolster the health system, and to provide targeted liquidity support to households and businesses, including small businesses.

Dr Hew highlighted that there are already signs of recovery around the APEC region, especially coming from economies that were able to curb the spread of the virus early on and have reopened their economies, as well as improved manufacturing activities. These green shoots bring growth projections of 5.2 percent in 2021, reflecting an economic rebound for the region.

Image credit: Patryk Kosmider /

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