New Zealand is the host country of this year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.
At a time when the global unequal distribution of vaccines is urgently needed to be solved, New Zealand intends to take advantage of the platform to promote tariff exemptions among member states on anti-epidemic necessities such as vaccines in the APEC Forum.
According to Reuters on the 22nd, New Zealand’s Deputy Minister of Trade and Economy, Vangelis Vitalis, said in an interview that New Zealand will convey the message at the APEC meeting that “in order to deal with the global epidemic, we need more global participation”.
Currently, tariffs on coronavirus vaccines are low across countries, but the cost of kits like syringes, needles and gloves is high, which could hinder the vaccination process.
“Trade can’t solve the crisis, but it can help.” Vitalis told Reuters that to ensure that small countries will not be left behind in terms of coronary vaccination, New Zealand proposes to eliminate tariffs on essentials to fight against the novel coronavirus epidemic among 21 APEC member countries, such as drugs, medical equipment, sanitary products, and relax other restrictions on the cross-border transportation of these goods.
Vitalis, who also chairs the 2021 APEC Senior Officials Virtual Meeting, also mentioned that the proposal must be agreed in the next few weeks before it can be approved at the APEC Trade Ministers’ Meeting in May.
According to the report, some APEC countries promised last year to ensure that the supply chain is open during the epidemic and lift trade restrictions on anti-epidemic necessities, especially medical supplies.
But since then, with the exception of New Zealand and Singapore, the government has not taken any firm action.
Vitalis said “worrisomely, only two small countries have done this”, and said that New Zealand wants a ministerial statement with a list of key goods and services needed to combat the coronavirus epidemic.
Reuters pointed out that if the above proposal is carried out, it will also alleviate the situation that the coronavirus vaccine will be transported through air and sea ports.
This follows multiple rounds of “wars of words” between European and American powers over a vaccine, and smaller countries, including New Zealand, are worried that the Congress has hoarded and controlled medical supplies.
Vitalis said that “vaccine nationalism” is not in anyone’s interest, and the emergence of variant viruses means that it is necessary to avoid “some parts of the world’s population is not vaccinated”.
According to Reuters, New Zealand began to vaccinate border workers on the 20th, but most of the country’s 5 million people will be vaccinated until the second half of this year.
Alan Bollard, former executive director of Singapore’s APEC secretariat and former president of the Bank of New Zealand, agreed that the coronavirus epidemic was an imminent issue, and also considered it an opportunity to “cross the first trade barriers”.
But at the same time, he is conservative about New Zealand’s beautiful vision.
He said that New Zealand wants to see APEC go further in trade liberalization, but “we must be realistic about this year’s goals”.