New Zealand will push for an agreement on medical supply chains in Apec
New Zealand will press 21 leaders in Apec countries to strengthen unilateralism to agree on the free movement of essential medical supplies and tackle rising vaccine nationalism, the country’s foreign minister told the Financial Times.
Nanaia Mahuta said that New Zealand will use the presidency of the Apec Forum this year to promote an agreement that will unite the movement of cross-border goods, including personal protective equipment.
“If we eliminate tariffs, non-tariff barriers, import restrictions, improve trade facilitation in order to advance a protocol in that [essential goods] space – this is a very tangible experience and it shows that we are not only learning from our experience but also trying to improve, ”said Mahuta.
He said the pandemic highlighted the importance of international cooperation, citing the example of how scientists worked to accelerate the development of Covid-19 vaccines. It was now essential for the government to “lean towards multilateralism” and flee vaccine nationalism to allow free travel of vaccines to vulnerable countries, Mahuta added.
Government confused looking for masks, gloves and other PPE last year, as the outbreak of coronavirus around the world increased demand. They are now competing for Covid-19 vaccines, a trend that prompted Italy block shipment of the vaccine to Australia last month.
Mahuta, was the first Maori woman Appointed Foreign Minister and the champion of indigenous rights has also said the pandemic has led to a reassessment of governments ’priorities in foreign relations. Human rights were taking precedence after a period of trade and economic growth that dominated the space, he said.
“People want to see their economy go through difficult times, but not to the detriment of some of the population groups in their countries,” he said, urging governments to pursue a more ethical view of trade and their economies.
Mahuta said Wellington would continue to speak Beijing’s human rights violations, despite concerns, could damage economic relations with the largest trading partner. The foreign minister signed a joint document with Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne last week and criticized Beijing for reporting human rights violations. China’s western Xinjiang region, where more than 1m Uyghurs have been arrested.
“We have a mature relationship with China,” Mahuta said. “We respect being a significant trading partner in New Zealand. However, when it comes to human rights, it’s a ‘no surprise’ that we take. We are consistent in the way we defend issues.”
Wellington has managed to avoid this type breakdown of bilateral relations With Beijing who have suffered in Australia over the past year.
Mahuta slammed the Apec presidency of New Zealand for trying to make an arrest between the two countries, and it could be said what could have been done on the border, as the organization’s meetings will not be held this year due to Covid. 19.
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