Trade ministers of Apec economies pledge to expedite flow of Covid-19 vaccines and related goods

Defeating Covid-19 is the top priority for every economy, Apec trade ministers said in a joint statement.
Defeating Covid-19 is the top priority for every economy, Apec trade ministers said in a joint statement.PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Trade ministers from the 21 economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) on Saturday (June 5) pledged to expedite the flow and transit of all Covid-19 vaccines and related goods.

In a joint statement issued after the Apec Ministers Responsible for Trade meeting, the ministers also agreed to prioritise identifying barriers to trade in services that could hinder the movement of essential goods.

These were key outcomes of the virtual meeting, which was chaired by Mr Damien O'Connor, New Zealand's Minister for Trade and Export Growth, and attended by ministers and senior officials from the 21 Apec economies.

They included Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong, who called for Apec economies to work collectively to support regional economic recovery and to deliver concrete initiatives in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Other members include the United States, China, Russia, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Mexico.

The joint statement said: "Defeating Covid-19 is the top priority for every economy.

"Recognising the role of extensive Covid-19 immunisation as a global public good, we urgently need to accelerate the production and distribution of safe, effective, quality-assured, and affordable Covid-19 vaccines.

"As ministers, we are focused on trade and investment's role in ensuring widespread and equitable access to such vaccines and related goods."

The ministers also agreed to prioritise work to identify and subsequently consider removing unnecessary barriers to trade in services, in particular, services that expedite and facilitate the flow of essential goods.

The ministers also acknowledged the essential role of trade in mitigating the impact of the pandemic, as well as the importance of a free, open and fair multilateral trading system, said a Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) statement on Saturday.

They also committed to support ongoing World Trade Organisation (WTO) reforms, and play a constructive role to deliver meaningful outcomes on areas such as e-commerce and environmental sustainability at the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference in November.

At Saturday's meeting, Mr Gan encouraged Apec economies to increase efforts to deepen regional economic integration and advance discussions in the areas of digital cooperation and sustainable development, said MTI.

He also participated in a dialogue with the Apec Business Advisory Council (ABAC) on Friday with ABAC Singapore representative Lam Yi Young.

Mr Gan emphasised the importance of maintaining open supply chains and adopting trade facilitative measures.

He called for Apec to strengthen its collaborations with the council, in order for policies to be attuned to the needs of business communities, MTI added.