APEC trade ministers unite on fast flow of COVID-19 vaccines, related goods
APEC trade ministers have committed to speeding up the cross-border flow of vaccines and related goods to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pledge came following the APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting chaired by New Zealand Minister for Trade and Export Growth Damien O'Connor on Saturday.
"As we face the biggest health and economic crisis of our lifetimes, I was greatly heartened to see how we united to make progress. We represent half of global GDP and wanted to use trade as a force for good," O'Connor said in a statement.
"We know nobody is safe until everybody is safe from COVID-19, and we know that our region prospers economically by keeping our markets open to one another rather than closing ourselves off."
He said the APEC trade ministers agreed to speed up the flow of vaccines and vaccine-related goods by eliminating trade restrictions that increase the cost of vaccines and the goods that support them.
They also agreed to a set guidelines for the customs authorities to ensure quick vaccines flow, and to remove barriers to freight and logistics services to support trade in vaccines and vaccine-related goods.
"It is encouraging to see APEC trade ministers working together to respond in practical, concrete terms to the COVID pandemic and rebuild our economies," he said.
New Zealand Minister of State for Trade and Export Growth Phil Twyford said the APEC had returned to its traditional role of championing multilateralism by rejuvenating the World Trade Organization (WHO) and injecting momentum into a series of trade negotiations with the aim of concluding these by the end of this year.
China's Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao said at the joint virtual press conference that China has continued to further open up to the outside world amid the pandemic.
He said efforts have been made by China on broadening market access, optimizing the business environment, enhancing the level of customs clearance facilitation, and shortening the time of customs clearance.
China is willing to work with all APEC members and send positive signals to the international community that the Asia-Pacific region is working together to fight the COVID-19, keep the regional industrial chain supply stable, and promote the regional economic recovery.
China will also speed up the fostering of a new development paradigm, promote the opening up to a higher level, and create more opportunities for global and regional development, Wang said.
New Zealand is hosting APEC 2021 with more than 300 meetings scheduled across the country.
APEC is a regional economic forum established in 1989 to leverage the growing interdependence of the Asia-Pacific region. APEC's 21 members aim to create greater prosperity for the people of the region by promoting balanced, inclusive, sustainable, innovative and secure growth and by accelerating regional economic integration.