PM Ardern chairs APEC leaders’ meeting on COVID-19
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has chaired a meeting of leaders representing the 21 APEC economies overnight.
“For the first time in APEC’s history Leaders have come together for an extraordinary meeting focused exclusively on COVID-19, and how our region can navigate out of the worst health and economic crisis in living memory,” says Ardern.
“Front of mind for leaders is achieving widespread access for vaccines globally and working collaboratively to provide them to everyone as soon as possible.
“Our discussions moved us beyond vaccine nationalism. Now we are focusing on all aspects of contributing to the global vaccination effort – making vaccines, sharing vaccines and using vaccines.
“Nobody is safe from this virus until everyone is safe. Ensuring both global vaccine access and uptake is as high as possible in the shortest time possible gives our regional and individual economies the greatest chance to accelerate recovery and will support greater economic stability,” says Ardern.
“We are also pushing for collaborative and practical solutions on safely reconnecting with the world by continuing to explore options including vaccine passports, travel green lanes and quarantine-free travel bubbles. This is a challenge to which we are working hard to find creative solutions.
“We have the opportunity to build back better and emerge from this crisis more inclusive, more sustainable and more adaptable than ever, and in order to achieve this as fast as possible - we need to do it together,” says Ardern.
APEC is home to 2.9 billion people, represents 60 per cent of world GDP and 48 per cent of world trade, according to 2018 figures.
Leaders also discussed a range of other matters relating to the pandemic including individual domestic approaches to the ongoing management of COVID-19; the evolving strains and health dimensions of COVID-19, with APEC helping speed the flow of vaccines; and fiscal and monetary tools available to sustain economies through the pandemic, with the importance of keeping markets open to one another.
NZ’s three policy priorities:
New Zealand’s three policy priorities for APEC 2021 are shaped by the COVID-19 crisis and focused on bringing the region together to promote an inclusive, sustainable and resilient recovery. They are:
Economic and trade policies to strengthen recovery
This priority focuses on APEC’s economic response to COVID-19. It aims to encourage trade and economic policies that support openness and connectivity, and reduce friction at the border in order to to reduce barriers and make it easier for companies to trade and do business throughout the APEC region.
Increasing inclusion and sustainability for recovery
This priority acknowledges the need for APEC’s long-term response to COVID-19 to be sustainable and inclusive of all people. It is about enhancing the participation of groups such as women and indigenous people in the economy, and ensuring their contributions are valued. It will also ensure the region’s recovery can be used to improve sustainability outcomes, including in the area of climate change.
Pursuing innovation, and a digitally enabled recovery
This priority focuses on APEC taking advantage of innovation in the digital space to improve the way business is done and make it more efficient and adaptable. It aims to encourage APEC members to embrace open and competitive markets for new technologies.
Leading a regional health, trade and economic response to the pandemic has been one of New Zealand’s priorities as APEC 2021 Chair. The meeting overnight builds on progress made at APEC Trade, Structural Reform and Finance Ministers’ meetings from last month and sets a strong foundation for when APEC Leaders meet again in November.
“Leaders have set strong expectations of the outcomes we want in November to support the COVID-19 recovery. These include making sure that APEC economies have lowered tariffs on vaccines moving across borders, and that economies have accelerated digitalisation of border paperwork, reducing costs on businesses,” says Ardern.
There have been over 50 million cases of COVID-19 within APEC’s borders, with over one million deaths. The region has registered more than 100,000 new cases every day since November 2020 and, during this time, more than 22 million people have been pushed into extreme poverty.
APEC-wide GDP contracted by 1.9 per cent in 2020, the biggest fall since World War Two. While economic growth is recovering, around 81 million jobs have been lost due to the pandemic.
New Zealand’s host year runs from December 2020 until November 2021.