PUTRAJAYA JUNE 6: The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) cannot fight the COVID-19 pandemic alone as it needs the urgency for APEC to optimise all policy tools and act collectively in ensuring trade continues to flow unimpeded during these trying times.
Senior Minister and Minister of International Trade and Industry, Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali said, it is important for APEC to guard against vaccine nationalism and stockpiling of vaccines.
“On the contrary, APEC should do its utmost to facilitate affordable and equitable access to vaccines. Recognising the importance of innovation and digitalisation, officials are urged to expedite the adoption of digitalisation, taking into account the pressing challenges faced by APEC during this pandemic,” Azmin said at the virtual 27th APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) Meeting held on 5 June 2021.
Following last year’s success of the 26th MRT Meeting under Malaysia’s chairmanship, New Zealand continued the consensus streak when the Ministers issued the APEC MRT Meeting Joint Statement 2021.
Chaired by The Honourable Damien O’Connor, Minister for Trade and Export Growth, New Zealand, the MRT Meeting saw the full participation of the Ministers Responsible for Trade from all 21 APEC Economies, as well as the Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
Azmin strongly encouraged APEC Economies to share relevant data and information relating to COVID-19 through the APEC COVID-19 Latest and Immediate Virtual Exchange (APEC COVID-19 LIVE), a digital information-sharing platform launched last year.
The Joint MRT Statement issued at the end of the Meeting, contained APEC Economies’ united pledge in tackling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for a strong and expedited economic recovery in the region. Ministers agreed that to achieve this goal, bold actions are needed in three areas, namely, using trade as a tool to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting the rules-based multilateral trading system and shaping future prosperity by strengthening APEC’s endeavours in structural reforms, digital economy, implementing the Lima Declaration on the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP)
Apart from the Joint Statement, Ministers also adopted two Statements, namely, on COVID-19 Vaccines Supply Chains, and Services to Support the Movement of Essential Goods. These two Statements will advance the Declaration on Facilitating the Movement of Essential Goods issued during the 26th MRT Meeting in Malaysia’s APEC 2020 host year.
Meanwhile Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala shared her insights and aspirations for multilateral solutions in addressing the global challenges, as well as the status of ongoing work at the WTO.
Dr. Ngozi also called for APEC Ministers to fully support achieving four tangible outcomes out of the Twelfth WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12) scheduled in November 2021, namely the conclusion of the negotiation on fisheries subsidies; meaningful outcome on trade and health; as well as on agriculture and food security; and to provide pathway for the full functioning of the WTO dispute settlement mechanism.
On Malaysia’s priorities towards achieving WTO MC12’s concrete outcomes, Azmin remarked “it is imperative that we restore the full-functioning of the Appellate Body to safeguard the predictability and stability of the multilateral trading system.”
The Senior Minister also underscored the importance of concluding the negotiations on fisheries subsidies which would send a strong signal that the WTO can deliver a multilateral outcome.
“Nonetheless, Special and Differential Treatment should remain an integral part in the negotiations. In the case of Malaysia, subsidies are meant for targeted groups with the prime objective to improve the livelihoods of thousands of low-income fishermen, who depend on small-scale fishing for their living,” he added.
Azmin also reiterated the strong call by APEC Leaders last year to treat COVID-19 vaccines as a global public good, and as such, Malaysia looks forward to the commencement of the text-based negotiations on the temporary waiver of certain provisions in the WTO Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, as these will enhance the affordability of, and accessibility to COVID-19 vaccines. –Malaysia World News