New Zealand's Ardern calls emergency APEC pandemic meeting

Wellington (AFP) –


New Zealand's Jacinda Ardern on Monday announced a hastily convened extraordinary meeting of APEC leaders aimed at improving the Asia-Pacific region's response to Covid-19 and its economic impact.

Prime Minister Ardern is scheduled to host the annual 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit online in November, but called an additional virtual meeting this Friday to examine immediate action on the crisis.

She said US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin had confirmed they would participate, along with "the majority of other APEC leaders".

"This is the first time in APEC's history that leaders have had an additional meeting at leaders' level and it reflects our desire to navigate together out of the Covid-19 pandemic and economic crisis," Ardern said in a statement.

"APEC economies have suffered their biggest contraction since (World War II) over the past year, with 81 million jobs lost -- responding collectively is vital to accelerate the economic recovery for the region."

The APEC grouping brings together Pacific Rim countries ranging from the United States to Papua New Guinea, collectively accounting for about 60 percent of global GDP.

As the host nation for 2021, New Zealand has already signalled its intention to expedite the trade of Covid-19 vaccines and medical material across the region.

Ardern said Friday's meeting would examine issues such as making vaccination rollouts more efficient and steps governments could take to protect jobs and the economy.

"I will be inviting discussion on immediate measures to achieve more coordinated regional action to assist recovery, as well as steps that will support inclusive and sustainable growth over the long term," she said.

"APEC leaders will work together to get through the pandemic... because nobody is safe until everyone is safe."