APEC Leaders Meet to Create Plan out of the Pandemic

President Joe Biden of the United States and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping will meet virtually this week with other Pacific Rim leaders to discuss a roadmap out of the pandemic’s dilemma.

This year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit is being held in New Zealand, and it will conclude with a leader’s meeting on Saturday. For the second year in a row, the meeting has been restricted to the virtual realm due to ongoing coronavirus outbreaks and corresponding travel restrictions.

Rather than settling long-standing feuds, the 21 APEC members will look for areas where they can work together to reduce trade and economic obstacles.

The meeting’s host, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, said in a statement that the focus will be on “charting a road to recovery out of this once-in-a-century calamity.”

APEC members collectively account for approximately 3 billion people and around 60% of global GDP. They run the length of the Pacific Ocean, from Chile to Russia, Thailand, and Australia.

During the 340 preliminary discussions, officials claim to have made great progress. According to Vangelis Vitalis, chair of the Senior Officials’ Meeting, APEC nations have agreed to decrease or remove various tariffs and border holdups on vaccines, masks, and other medical supplies that are critical in the battle against the coronavirus.

Big power rivalries, on the other hand, provide an unavoidable background for APEC’s closed-door summit sessions, which include Hong Kong and Taiwan as well as communist-ruled mainland China.

Both Taiwan and China have applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, a Pacific Rim trade pact, with Beijing claiming that Taiwan’s candidacy would be rejected because the democratically ruled island refuses to recognise that it is a part of China.

According to Stephen Hoadley, an associate professor of politics and international affairs at the University of Auckland, Biden would seek to alter the direction established by his predecessor, Donald Trump, who, with his America First foreign policy approach, shunned regional economic treaties.

Since Biden’s election, Washington has reverted to a more internationalist approach to trade liberalization, backing global and regional initiatives such as the World Trade Organization’s rule-making body.

However, Biden has maintained most of Trump’s trade, technological, and investment restrictions on Chinese goods and corporations while also taking steps to resist Beijing’s regional might.

A recent new defense deal between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States drew criticism since it excluded New Zealand and other US allies. Nuclear submarine development is a big element of the new defense deal, although New Zealand has a long-standing nuclear-free stance.

According to Hoadley, the competition between China and the United States can be seen in the way they characterize the area, with China calling it the Asia-Pacific and the United States switching to the Indo-Pacific years ago to include the democratic counterbalance of India, which is not an APEC member.

Aside from the ongoing geopolitical difficulties, the epidemic has added to the uncertainty in an area that has long been considered as a growing engine of global growth.

Many economies are still fighting to recover from the downturns that slammed the area in 2020, putting a halt to tourism and a slew of other activities. Long-term COVID-19 outbreaks, sluggish vaccine advances, and other manufacturing and shipping bottlenecks have exacerbated to the uncertainty and pushed millions of the region’s most vulnerable people back into poverty.

“Unfortunately, there has been increased protectionism throughout the world, which has created for an exceedingly tough climate for us to operate in,” Vitalis stated during a press conference.

He believes there are areas of agreement, such as increasing environmental sustainability and maximizing Indigenous communities’ latent potential.

Damien O’Connor, New Zealand’s trade minister, said Tuesday that APEC should send a strong statement to the rest of the globe ahead of a World Trade Organization summit.

“We are in the midst of the worst economic downturn in 75 years.” We understand that trade will be a key factor in our comeback. “We simply cannot afford to ignore an institution that has been at the heart of APEC’s activity since its establishment,” O’Connor remarked.

Ahead of the main leaders’ meeting, APEC will hold a youth summit as well as its normal CEO summit, which will include speeches from leaders as well as a keynote lecture from human rights lawyer Amal Clooney. Ardern and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will have a conversation about how the epidemic has affected the world.

The APEC meetings on the internet lack the pomp and glitter of previous in-person events. There will be no fine clothes or gala balls. Last year, New Zealand decided to convert to a virtual summit. Due of the epidemic, Malaysia has decided to host the 2020 APEC Leaders Meeting online.

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