In a virtual meeting, the trade ministers from 21 economies that form the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation agreed on achieving a strong economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic by speeding up vaccine delivery.
SYDNEY — Amid the pandemic, a regional concession to drive the market to full recovery starts with the accelerated distribution of coronavirus vaccines within the Asia-Pacific region. New Zealand, serving as chair, hosted the virtual meet.
During a pre-meeting press conference, New Zealand Minister for Trade and Export Growth Damien O’Connor, says the successful distribution of vaccines across the Asia-Pacific region will be critical to the region’s recovery.
“COVID-19 has highlighted once again how much we depend on each other, and how important it is to keep trade and supply chains open,” he says.
The APEC economies collectively need to vaccinate roughly 3 billion people in order to move on with recovery. O’Connor urges the member states and regions to undertake the same level of cooperation they had done for economic development toward vaccines and medical supply equipment.
“Recognizing the role of extensive COVID-19 immunization as a global public good, we urgently need to accelerate the production and distribution of safe, effective, quality-assured, and affordable COVID-19 vaccines,” they say in a joint statement, pointing out the importance of trade and investment’s role in ensuring widespread and equitable access to vaccines.
The APEC economies agreed to work proactively in support of discussions on a temporary waiver of certain intellectual property protections on COVID-19 vaccines.
The necessity for a waiver is included in the statement, supporting a proposal by India and South Africa for the World Trade Organization to temporarily suspend the intellectual property protections on the vaccines.
Besides the joint statement, the ministers also issued a separate one for COVID-19 vaccine supply chains where it states that APEC economies will expedite the flow and transit of all vaccines and related goods through air, sea and land ports.
“We will consider voluntary actions to reduce the cost of these products for our people, particularly by encouraging each economy to review its own charges levied at the border on COVID-19 vaccines and related goods,” the joint statement says.
In a pre-meeting conference, Japanese senior vice foreign minister Eiichiro Washio says APEC economies should focus on building greater governance around data exchange to ensure digital information can be exchanged freely and with trust, with stress on the need for the region to “build back better” from the pandemic.
“As the pandemic is accelerating digitalization, a global rule for a digital society is needed,” he says.
Founded in 1989, APEC is a platform for discussions on free trade and economic cooperation by Pacific Rim countries covering 60 percent of global gross domestic product, some 40 percent of the global population and around 50 percent of the world’s trade volume.
The APEC groups Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam. (TC/The MiNT)