New Zealand tackles ‘vaccine apartheid’ with ambitious APEC free-trade plan

Article content

WELLINGTON — New Zealand is pushing Asia-Pacific trade group APEC to remove all tariffs on COVID-19 vaccines and related medical products, a person familiar with discussions said, but is facing opposition from some members who believe the plan is too ambitious.

The proposal comes amid growing concerns that while inoculation campaigns are helping wealthy countries recover, few shots have reached smaller, poorer nations where the virus still rages.

New Zealand, which is hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum virtually this year, will push for members including the United States, China and Russia to sign off on two documents related to COVID-19 in addition to the official joint statement issued after the trade ministers meeting on Saturday.

All 21 economies are set to agree to apply “best practices” guidelines on movement of vaccines and related medical products across borders, the person familiar with the discussions told Reuters, declining to be identified because the talks were private. This could reduce delays in moving vaccines internationally by days.

The members are also likely to say something “strongly supportive” of waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, the person said.


Article content

But a proposal by the host nation to make shipments of medicines, medical and surgical equipment, hygiene products and other goods tariff-free is proving more contentious.

A trade ministry official at another participating country said members were still negotiating what to put in the joint statement.

“While some countries have shown their support for the idea of eliminating or reducing tariffs on COVID-19 vaccines, there are some countries that are leading against pursuing such an idea,” said the trade ministry official, who could not be named because the discussions were private.

“Some countries like New Zealand have high ambitions when it comes to crafting this joint statement, so they prefer strong expressions like ‘tariffs’ in the statement,” but other countries were not comfortable with that term, the official said.

The U.S. Trade Representative’s office did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment on the matter.

Although average tariffs on vaccines are low within APEC, only about 0.8%, tariffs are much higher for goods important in the vaccine supply chain.

Alcohol solutions, freezing equipment, packaging and storage materials, as well as vials and rubber stoppers face average tariff rates above 5%, according to APEC. Import tariffs can reach as much as 30% in some APEC economies.

New Zealand says an agreement on eliminating supply chain and tariff barriers are needed for APEC to be responsive and relevant to the crisis facing the world.


Article content

“Globally, there have been worrying trends restricting supply chains and disrupting flows of vaccines and essential goods around the world,” New Zealand’s Minister of State for Trade and Export Growth, Phil Twyford, said in a statement.

Indonesia’s director general of international trade negotiations with the trade ministry, Djatmiko Bris Witjaksono, confirmed without elaborating that agreement is being sought on two additional documents – an APEC declaration on COVID-19 vaccine supply chains and a declaration on services to support the movement of essential goods.

Final talks will be held between trade ministers on Saturday after which the joint statement will be made public.

Pacific nations including New Zealand and Australia are still far behind in vaccinating their populations but these countries have had more success in containing the spread of the virus.

The consensus-based APEC has struggled to reach agreements in recent years amid then-President Donald Trump’s trade war with China. Joe Biden, who succeeded Trump, has promised a more multilateral approach. (Additional reporting by Bernadette Christina Munthe in Jakarta and David Lawder in Washington; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)


In-depth reporting on the innovation economy from The Logic, brought to you in partnership with the Financial Post.


Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Source link


5 Best Video Conferencing Apps in 2022: The Ultimate Guide!

Video conferencing apps provide a great solution — they deliver live, face-to-face communication with your colleagues across the globe while letting you stay in touch with others in your organization and customer base.

Satyanarayan Ki Katha: Kartik Aaryan shares first look of musical love saga

"I feel immense pressure and responsibility": Kartik Aaryan Satyanarayan Ki Katha: Bollywood actor Kartik Aaryan, who made his acting debut in 2011 with...

Coronavirus: Maharashtra govt unlikely to lift COVID-19 curbs from June 1, says Tope

Talking to reporters after a cabinet meeting, Tope said an elaborate presentation on the COVID-19 situation was made during the meet and it...

What People Have to Say About Top iPhone 13 Issues In 2022 And How They Fixed Them?

Gladly, there is always a way to fix your expensive iPhone within your budget.