2021 APEC to work on issues of trade, vaccine cooperation
Published: Mar 11, 2021 07:58 PM
APEC File photo:VCG

APEC File photo:VCG

This year's APEC summit, to be hosted by New Zealand, would focus on pushing free trade in Asia-Pacific and pandemic-fighting solutions, including how to ensure a convenient flow of vaccines across the region, the chair of the First Senior Officials' Meeting (SOM) said at a media conference held on Thursday.

Experts predicted that this year's APEC summit will provide a chance for China-US relations to get back on a cooperative track, given that the Biden administration has shown an inclination to embrace multilateralism again after the Trump administration's exclusionary policies. 

Leaders from 21 Asia-Pacific economies including China, the US and Japan are expected to discuss key topics as such as free trade, vaccine transportation and indigenous economies at the summit, which will be held virtually, said Vangelis Vitalis, the 2021 SOM chair. 

The meeting will be held at a time when the Asia-Pacific region has more motivation to cooperate, whether economically or medically, in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, with some countries on the way to a full-fledged recovery while others remain in the shadow of the virus. 

According to Vangelis Vitalis, this year's APEC will "work on the role of the free trade area of the Asia Pacific." 

"We have some building blocks starting to emerge such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). APEC is the summit that binds the FTA economies together that we want to build on and create the foundation for a prosperous and dynamic region," said him at the press conference. 

He noted that the summit will respond to the immediate crisis faced by the region, such as how to move medical products around and ensure a more convenient flow of vaccines across the Asia-Pacific region. 

Experts told the Global Times that this year's APEC could be a chance for China and the US to break the ice and seek more common ground for cooperation, considering that US President Joe Biden has shown an inclination to embrace multilateralism again after the exclusionary mindset in the Trump era. 

"With Biden showing an intention to cooperate with other countries, and with the start of the RCEP, there's plenty of room for China-US bilateral cooperation and multilateral cooperation, which can be raised and pushed during the APEC summit," Chen Fengying, a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times. 

Zhao Gancheng, director of the Center for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, said that it's hoped China and the US will find ways to cooperate and emerge from the shadows under the APEC framework, as long as Biden does not waver on his multilateral stance.

"If the US opens its arms to free trade, I believe China will actively respond to that," he told the Global Times.

He also noted that China will be an initiator on many issues for promoting cooperation during this year's APEC, such as urging other members to speed up implementation of the RCEP. 

Chen predicted that this year's APEC will focus on implementing the APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040, which was reached at last year's APEC summit -- a move under which member economies will work together to deliver a free, open, fair, non-discriminatory trade and investment environment.