Corporate Wellbeing Asia 2023
Ensuring enough skilled workers in critical sectors, and more: Highlights of the proposed IPEF Supply Chain Agreement

Ensuring enough skilled workers in critical sectors, and more: Highlights of the proposed IPEF Supply Chain Agreement

With supply chain a critical economic contributor, the Agreement would see the upskilling and reskilling of workers, promoting inclusivity and equal access, and increasing comparability of skills credentials frameworks.

The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) has announced the "substantial conclusion" of negotiations relating to a proposed international IPEF Supply Chain Agreement.

In a press release on 28 May 2023 (Sunday), the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said the Agreement aims to increase the resilience, efficiency, productivity, sustainability, transparency, diversification, security, fairness, and inclusivity of supply chains through both collaborative activities and individual actions taken by each IPEF partner.

The IPEF comprises 14 nations (also dubbed as 'partners'), namely: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, the US, and Vietnam.

Under the proposed IPEF Supply Chain Agreement, detailed at the IPEF Ministerial Meeting in Detroit, Michigan, the IPEF partners seek to:

  • respect, promote, and realise, in good faith, labour rights in IPEF partners’ supply chains, in recognition of the essential role of workers in achieving greater supply chain resilience;
  • ensure the availability of a sufficient number of skilled workers in critical sectors and key goods, including by upskilling and reskilling workers, promoting inclusivity and equal access, and increasing comparability of skills credentials frameworks;
  • provide a framework to build their collective understanding of significant supply chain risks, supported by each partner’s identification and monitoring of its own critical sectors and key goods;
  • improve crisis coordination and response to supply chain disruptions and work together to support the timely delivery of affected goods during a crisis;
  • ensure that workers and the businesses, especially micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises, in the IPEF partners' economies, benefit from resilient, robust, and efficient supply chains by identifying disruptions or potential disruptions and responding promptly, effectively, and, where possible, collectively;
  • better prepare businesses in each economy to identify, manage, and resolve supply chain bottlenecks, including by strengthening supply chain logistics and infrastructure;
  • facilitate cooperation, mobilise investments, and promote regulatory transparency in sectors and goods critical to national security, public health & safety, or the prevention of significant or widespread economic disruptions;
  • identify opportunities for technical assistance and capacity building in strengthening IPEF partners’ supply chains, and
  • respect market principles, minimise market distortions including unnecessary restrictions and impediments to trade, and protect business confidential information.

In driving these efforts, the Agreement could see the establishment of three IPEF Supply Chain bodies to facilitate corporation on any relevant issue. These would be:

  • The IPEF Supply Chain Council: The proposed Agreement would establish a mechanism for the IPEF partners to work collaboratively to develop sector-specific action plans for critical sectors and key goods to enhance the resilience of IPEF partner’s supply chains, including through diversification of sources, infrastructure and workforce development, enhanced logistics connectivity, business matching, joint research and development, and trade facilitation.
  • The IPEF Supply Chain Crisis Response Network: The proposed Agreement would establish an emergency communications channel for the IPEF partners to seek support during a supply chain disruption and to facilitate information sharing and collaboration among the IPEF partners during a crisis, enabling a faster and more effective response that minimises negative effects on their economies.
  • The IPEF Labor Rights Advisory Board: The proposed Agreement would establish a new advisory board, consisting of government, worker, and employer representatives, as well as a subcommittee composed of government representatives, to support the IPEF partners’ promotion of labour rights in their supply chains, promotion of sustainable trade and investment, and facilitation of opportunities for investment in businesses that respect labour rights.

As affirmed by MTI, the IPEF partners are committed to bringing this Agreement into force “as soon as practicable, including starting preparatory work, to bolster resilient supply chains while recognising the different economic and geographic characteristics of the partners.”

Once finalised, the proposed Agreement will be subject to each partner’s domestic processes for signature, followed by ratification, acceptance, or approval.

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Lead image: Singapore Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong's Facebook

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