APEC leaders agree to step up Covid-19 vaccine distribution

Jacob Johnson
Source: 1News

World leaders will work to remove trade barriers hindering widespread access to Covid-19 vaccines over the coming months.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern virtually hosted world leaders from Wellington in the early hours of Saturday morning, in what’s been coined an “extraordinary” APEC meeting, to discuss the pandemic.

Generally only one meeting at the leaders’ level is held annually, scheduled for November this year.

In a press conference following the meeting, Jacinda Ardern said equitable distribution of vaccines was a key talking point during the conference.

“What you did hear from leaders today was a commitment and understanding that we will not be safe until we are all safe," she said.

"So [there's] a lot of discussion at an individual [country] level of the donations that will be made and the work to expect over the next few months to distribute vaccines beyond their own borders.”

It comes four weeks after APEC trade ministers agreed removing tariffs associated with vaccine roll-outs should be a key priority.

“It may surprise you to know that vaccines can, in some cases, face tariffs of six per cent, vials and packaging 20 per cent in some cases, syringes face tariffs, so it is a very real problem,” Ardern said.

US President Joe Biden and China’s President Xi Jinping were among the leaders who tuned in, the first time the pair had been in a meeting together since Biden was sworn in.

Ardern said there weren’t any tensions between the pair.

“That wasn’t an issue I had to navigate as chair at all.”

Chinese state run media organisation Xinhua News Agency is reporting President Xi Jinping said he would be financing the setup of a fund under APEC for Covid recovery.

“The purpose of today wasn’t about specific announceables necessarily from individual nations,” Ardern said.

“What we wanted to do was give an opportunity for this region … to come together and share ideas about economic recovery.”

Leaders also discussed a range of other matters including individual domestic approaches, the evolving strains of the virus and financial tools available to sustain economies through the pandemic.