New Zealand's Trade and Export Growth Minister Damien O’Connor will chair the Virtual APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) meeting, according to a release issued by the APEC Secretariat and received here on Thursday.
"The Asia-Pacific is confronted by the greatest health and economic crisis of our lifetimes and unprecedented uncertainty, as economies continue to struggle to bounce back from COVID-19," Minister O’Connor remarked.
The minister noted that these problems demand APEC’s cooperative response.
"We know nobody is safe until everybody is safe from COVID-19, and we know that trade has a vital role to ensure our region prospers economically by keeping our markets open to one another rather than closing ourselves off," O'Connor noted.
"Responsibility falls on New Zealand, as this year’s host economy to lead an APEC 2021 agenda that responds to these challenges as well as our responsibility for ensuring sustainable recovery," he affirmed.
"I will be urging APEC trade ministers to accelerate access to vaccines and other goods essential in fighting the pandemic by streamlining and speeding up related trade procedures," he emphasized.
The APEC Ministers Responsible Trade meeting will focus on two key priorities: trade’s role in responding to COVID-19 and supporting the World Trade Organization (WTO) that offers predictable trade rules for business.
Minister O’Connor drew attention to the worrisome trends of vaccine protectionism and increasingly restricted supply chains affecting the flow of goods and services across the world.
The latest report by the APEC Policy Support Unit showed that while the average tariff on vaccines is very low within APEC, at only 0.8 percent, levies are much steeper for several goods that are crucial in the vaccine supply chain.
Hence, New Zealand will be seeking cooperation of member economies on ways to eliminate barriers to trade in essential goods and services that are important to sustainable recovery.
Ministers will hold discussions on ways to revivify the WTO to offer consistent and transparent trade rules as well as on what contribution the trade policy can make to respond to environmental issues, such as climate change and overfishing.
A day before the meeting, APEC trade ministers will also join business leaders to tackle major trade challenges at such a critical time.
"The choices we make right now matter. I hope we can look back at this time and know that the APEC trade ministers took the opportunity to join, work, and grow together to provide vital support for our region’s recovery and to lay the foundations for a better future," Minister O’Connor stated.
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