WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will chair an informal meeting of leaders from countries in the Asia-Pacific trade group APEC this week to focus on the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic effects, APEC host New Zealand said Monday.
It will be the first time that APEC leaders have held an additional meeting before their formal gathering, due in November, and reflects the desire to address the impact of the pandemic, Ardern said in a statement.
“APEC economies have suffered their biggest contraction since the Second World War over the past year, with 81 million jobs lost. Responding collectively is vital to accelerate the economic recovery for the region,” Ardern said.
“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.
The meeting will be held virtually on July 16.
There have been over 50 million cases of COVID-19 within APEC’s borders, with over one million deaths. APEC-wide GDP contracted by 1.9 percent in 2020.
The 21-economy group, which includes the United States, China and Japan, agreed in June to review trade barriers and expedite the cross-border transit of COVID-19 vaccines and related goods, but stopped short of a broad commitment to remove tariffs.
New Zealand has said leading a regional response to the pandemic is its highest priority as APEC Chair.
(Reporting by Praveen Menon; editing by Richard Pullin)