IMT-GT Video Conference Series: Managing the Impact of Covid-19 on IMT-GT Cooperation

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PUTRAJAYA, 29 July 2020 –IMT-GT Video Conference Series: Managing the Impact of Covid-19 on IMT-GT Cooperation was successfully organised and completed on 29 July 2020. The video conference series was conducted since 24 June until 29 July held every Wednesday, cover six (6) areas of cooperation namely: tourism, Human Resource Development, halal products and services, trade and investment, transport connectivity and agriculture and agro-based industry.

The objectives of the video conference were to share experience and best practices among IMT-GT member countries in managing the impact of Covid-19; discuss the impact of the pandemic on IMT-GT Working Group (WG) workplan; explore opportunities; and mitigations measures required post covid-19 to optimise the subregional cooperation. There were almost 600 participants from China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines attend the online video conference.

The video conferences were part of the CIMT initiatives to respond to the unprecedented challenges as a result of the spread of Covid-19 which has devastated global economy and IMT-GT member countries. In its implementation, CIMT has cooperated with relevant working group and received profound support from IMT-GT National Secretariat, University Network (UNINET), and IMT-GT Joint Business Council. The Six (6) series Video Conference was officiated by Hon. Rizal Affandi Lukman, Deputy Minister for International Economic Cooperation, Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs Indonesia, IMT-GT Senior Official of Indonesia, on 24 June 2020.

Dr. Wanchat Suwankitti, Senior Advisor on Policy and Planning of Thailand, representing, Deputy Secretary-General, National Economic and Social Development Council delivered his remarks during the 3rd Video Conference Series discussed on Halal Products and Services Cooperation. The conference was officially closed on 29 July 2020 by Dato’ Ahmad Zamri bin Khairuddin, Director, Regional Development Division, representing, Director General Economic Planning Unit, Prime Minister’s Department of Malaysia, and IMT-GT Senior Official of Malaysia.

During the video conference, IMT-GT members countries shared current situation of COVID-19 and government’s policies as well as assistances for those who have lost their job and income during this period. As tourism is the most hard-hit sector, member countries discussed on the preparation to rebuild tourist confidence with emphasizing on safety and health before reopening the business especially to the foreigners.  The implementation of subregion travel bubble is also proposed to encourage travel in IMT-GT area with health protocol as the new normal to follow. The top priorities among others reopening again of borders within the subregion to facilitate seamless border trade.

The video conference also raised the importance of adaptation to the new technology. Digital platform was strongly recommended to be strengthen in all IMT-GT sector cooperation post covid-19.  

The private sector raised on the needs for the government to provide adequate labour with necessary skills to fill the gap between labour and technology. At the same time, more factories opt to processing by machinery to meet the desired quantity and quality and to avoid the spread of pandemic disease in the premise. Besides having the technical skills, the current workforce also needs to be retrained and reskilled to catch up with the current technology.  The completion of IMT-GT E-Commerce Platform is expected to assist the MSMEs in the subregion to market and sell their product not only in their country but also globally.

IMT-GT subregion has strength in agricultural products.  During the pandemic, the demand of food and consumer products, and also medical rubber based-products escalate; thus, an opportunity for IMT-GT agro-based industry. There is a surge of global rubber glove demand due to the outbreak of Covid-19 however the world price of natural rubber remains low. As the largest natural rubber and glove supplier, the private sector recommends the subregion to promote investment of nitrile latex gloves.

In the issue of food security, all IMT-GT member countries do not face shortage of food supply although some area may experience temporary shortage of supply due to restriction of movement. Nevertheless, there is trend that people are looking for a more healthy and high nutritional food during the restriction of movement. People are also more concerned on product traceability to ensure healthy and hygienic product.

The outcome of the video conference series will be furthered deliberated in the Working Group meetings. The related and suitable projects as well as activities will be developed in respond and harness the impact of Covid-19 in the subregion.

Besides the speakers from the government agencies and universities in IMT-GT, the private sector from Indonesia: PT Indo Lautan Global Indonesia, Oke Oce, Wardah Cosmetics and Pelindo Satu; Malaysia: Dagang Net Technologies Sdn. Bhd., Malaysian Employers Federation, Primus Core Sdn. Bhd., Penang Port and FigDirect Sdn. Bhd; and Thailand: Phuket Tourist Association, The Federation of Thai Industries, CPF (Thailand) Company Limited and Thai Rubber Association, also shared their experiences and views on the impact of Covid-19 to their business. The video conference series were also participated by speakers from Asian Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank and AirAsia Group.

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