It speaks to both the urgency of the situation, and New Zealand's credibility as an exemplar in the fight against Covid-19, that when it announced it would convene a first-ever extraordinary Apec meeting to shape a regional response on how to recover from the pandemic, there was a swift and positive response from Asia-Pacific leaders, including presidents Xi Jinping of China and Joe Biden of the United States. In the event, last week's virtual informal summit agreed that Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation members would ensure widespread access for vaccines globally, continue to pump up economies for as long as necessary, protect and promote supply chain resilience, and ensure no one will be left behind.
While some of the aims resemble boilerplate statements that flow regularly from meetings such as these, they take on critical meaning in the current context. Keeping trade flowing and kick-starting travel are critical to the economic recovery of the region. The gross domestic product of Apec economies shrank 1.9 per cent last year, the largest decline in nearly 80 years. Millions of jobs were lost, or vanished, as people adapted to new ways of work and living. Inequality, already a major worry, significantly worsened, and so did the digital divide. In many parts of the world, vaccine nationalism combined with nativism, and even racist instincts in some cases, to produce scars in the international fabric and domestic society.