23 Oct 2021

APEC finance meeting reflects region's delicate lean forward

2:38 pm on 23 October 2021

APEC finance ministers have agreed to use all available policy tools to address recovery from Covid-19 and support equitable access to the Covid-19 vaccine.

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Photo: Supplied/APEC

Finance Minister Grant Robertson chaired the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation virtual meeting from Wellington yesterday.

He said economic activity in the Asia-Pacific region has begun to rebound and vaccination rates are rising, but the recovery from the pandemic had been uneven. In particular, tourism, businesses, women and indigenous peoples continue to be disproportionately impacted.

In a collective statement, the group noted that the spread of new variants of Covid-19 posed risks to the region, including the risk that containment measures that had ended could be reintroduced. This was combined with "insufficient rates of vaccination", inflation pressures and supply chain problems.

On the plus side, the region's GDP was expected to grow by more than 6 percent this year, and there had been "accelerated adoption of digital technology" that was opening up more accessible financial services.

But the group warned: "We will only overcome this health and economic emergency by accelerating equitable access to safe, effective, quality-assured, and affordable Covid-19 vaccines".

"We recognise the role of extensive immunisation against Covid-19 as a global public good. ...We will step up efforts to expand vaccine manufacture and supply, support global vaccine sharing efforts, and encourage the voluntary transfer of vaccine production technologies on mutually agreed terms."

Robertson said the meeting reinforced the fact APEC countries have the strategies and tools to drive economic recovery from Covid-19 while also tackling climate change and improving lives.

"As we work to bring the pandemic to an end, we must not lose sight of the broader challenges affecting our region, including climate change and inequality."

The group discussed policy tools that could be used to make resources available to transition towards a more economically sustainable and lower carbon, as well as aligning wider spending and tax policies with aspirational policy objectives.

Despite the complexity of the region's economies, overarching gains and stability could be fostered by comparing policies, actions and outcomes, and encouraging coordinated cooperation in key areas, the ministers said.

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