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A beginner’s guide to APEC 2021

A wrap up of APEC 2021

APEC 2021 was a big challenge. COVID-19 presented the biggest health crisis since the 1918 influenza pandemic, as well as the largest economic collapse since World War II.

New Zealand set an agenda tightly focused on policies to manage the health effects of COVID-19, and to help communities recover in a way that is sustainable, inclusive and makes the most of digital technologies.

The full year of meetings has been a solid success. The 21 economies have shared their knowledge and experiences and worked together to find practical solutions to shared problems.

They have softened the effects of the pandemic and built consensus to accelerate global access to vaccines. There has been real world action to respond to the pandemic and position the Asia-Pacific for a sustainable and inclusive recovery.

Under the APEC 2021 theme: Join, work, grow. Together. Haumi ē, Hui ē, Taiki ē, APEC’s spirit of cooperation has strengthened. These connections will help in making further progress in the years to come to benefit the people of the Asia-Pacific region.

Here’s a summary of some of the year’s achievements.

Getting COVID-19 vaccines moving across borders

17 APEC economies have either lowered or removed tariffs on vaccines and related products (such as syringes). And no new export restrictions have been brought in.

This means it is easier and faster for communities all over the world to obtain life-saving vaccines. This helps everyone, but smaller economies and communities most of all.

Facilitating free, fair, open trade

APEC believes that free, fair and open trade will best help communities recover from the pandemic. So, this year, it has worked on many different ways to make it easier for businesses to keep international trade links going.

It has committed to find ways to cut red tape, and most APEC economies have introduced permanent digital customs processes. This will save businesses a lot of time and money.

APEC finance ministers are also working together to find policies that will help economies move through the pandemic, without creating debt for future generations to inherit.

The APEC group has also sent a strong message of support for the World Trade Organization in its effort to achieve trade and health outcomes, and to conclude negotiations on fisheries and agricultural subsidies.

Climate change has become more prominent in APEC’s agenda

APEC’s trade ministers have agreed to consider environmental and climate change issues as part of their pandemic recovery planning.

They have agreed to review and update APEC’s official list of environmental goods, which are subject to lower border tariffs. The goods on this list help benefit the environment and fight climate change. One example is certain types of bamboo flooring – it is renewable, fast growing and uses less water, soil and air to produce than other types of flooring options.

Work has also begun to agree on a definition of environmentally friendly services. When finalised, policy can be developed to encourage more trade in these services.

We’ve also encouraged APEC food producers to lift production standards to have less   environmental impact. This will benefit the environment and consumers, who increasingly expect their food to be produced sustainably and without harm.

Most significantly, APEC is working towards a plan to stop the increase in damaging fossil fuel subsidies. They mask the true cost of fossil fuels, which makes other energy options seem more expensive in comparison. About USD$500 billion is spent around the world on fossil fuel subsidies every year.

Inclusion of women and indigenous peoples has been a major policy focus

Women and indigenous peoples have been particularly affected by job losses caused by the pandemic. Harnessing their untapped economic potential will boost recovery efforts and help businesses to rebuild with more resilience to future economic shocks.

New Zealand’s unique contribution to APEC this year has been to lead work on indigenous economic empowerment with agreement now reached that this work can continue in future years.

We will deliver an implementation plan for the Putrajaya Vision 2040

One of New Zealand’s big responsibilities as host is the development of an implementation plan to bring the Putrajaya Vision to life. This implementation plan will set the direction of APEC’s work for the next 20 years. Sustainability, inclusion, digital and economic and trade policies will all be important features.