New Zealand to boost duty-free trade in COVID-19 essentials at APEC By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A screen shows leaders holding the APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040 document during the APEC 2020 Virtual Economic Leaders Meeting in Kuala Lumpur

By Praveen Menon WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand will use its platform to host an Asia-Pacific trade group in the coming months to pursue a global approach to coronavirus vaccines that would eliminate tariffs on products needed to combat the disease. COVID-19. Amid concerns that smaller nations may lag behind in vaccinating their populations, New Zealand, one of the most successful countries in curbing the pandemic, will make the proposals at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. , which will host this year. “Our message is that to deal with a global pandemic like this, we need more global participation,” said Vangelis Vitalis, New Zealand’s Under Secretary for Trade and Economy, who is chairing the APEC2021 Senior Officials Meeting. “Trade is not going to solve the crisis, but trade can help,” he told Reuters in an interview. New Zealand proposes to ship among the 21 APEC members of medicines, medical and surgical equipment, hygiene products and other goods duty free and to ease other restrictions on their movement across borders. The proposal would have to be agreed in the next few weeks to be approved at the APEC trade ministers meeting in May, Vitalis said. Some APEC nations pledged last year to keep COVID-19 supply chains open and remove trade restrictions on essential products, especially medical supplies. But there has been no firm action since then. Only New Zealand and Singapore took this further, removing tariffs on more than 120 products they deemed essential. “It is worrying that only two small countries have done that,” Vitalis said. New Zealand wants a ministerial statement listing essential products and services for a pandemic, he said. It would also facilitate the movement of coronavirus vaccines through air and sea ports, which has been a growing concern among smaller nations like New Zealand, which fear larger economies will buy and control medical supplies. Despite the efforts of the World Health Organization to ensure that smaller nations get their share of vaccines, experts say richer nations have stockpiled vaccines and essential products, leaving poorer and smaller nations to your mercy of these products. New Zealand began vaccinating border workers on Saturday, but most of the country’s 5 million people are not expected to be vaccinated until the second half of the year. Vitalis said the “vaccine nationalism” against which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern warned last month is of no interest to anyone. Mutation risks mean the need to avoid “unvaccinated parts of the world population,” he said. Although the fees for vaccines are low, there are significant charges on equipment such as syringes, needles, and gloves, which can hinder the inoculation process. The consensus-based APEC has struggled to reach deals in recent years amid then-President Donald Trump‘s trade war with China. Joe Biden, who succeeded Trump last month, promised a more multilateral approach, but is not expected to rush into signing trade deals with Beijing. [L4N2KF3AC] The trade-dependent host nation “would like APEC to expand its trade liberalization, but we have to be realistic about what can be achieved this year,” said Alan Bollard, former executive director of the New Zealand-based APEC Secretariat in Singapore. . “COVID-19 is an immediate concern; addressing it is also an opportunity to overcome current trade barriers,” said Bollard, a former head of New Zealand’s central bank.