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Trade boosts vaccine availability among APEC members

By ZHONG NAN | China Daily | Updated: 2021-06-08 09:02
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A cargo ship docks at Qinzhou Port in China-ASEAN Free Trade Area in Qinzhou, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, on July 11, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

Enhanced ties among the 21 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum will help people in the region gain more affordable and safe COVID-19 vaccines via favorable trade policies, and generate fresh momentum to lift the economy, a Commerce Ministry official said on Monday.

China is ready to work with other member economies to send a positive signal to the international community that the Asia-Pacific region is working together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, keep regional supply chains stable and promote regional economic recovery, said Yu Benlin, director-general of the Department of International Economic and Trade Affairs at the Ministry of Commerce.

The official's comments follow discussions during a virtual meeting of the trade ministers from 21 APEC member economies on Saturday. The ministers agreed to use trade as a tool to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, support a rules-based multilateral trading system, and secure the flow of trade in services to better ensure the production, distribution, and sale of vaccines and medical supplies across the region.

During the virtual meeting, chaired by the government of New Zealand, Commerce Minister Wang Wentao said China has actively participated in, and promoted, regional free trade arrangements. China is implementing an FTA upgrade strategy, and is committed to further improving the level of regional trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, and to promote regional economic integration.

The minister said China has taken the lead in completing the ratification process for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement and is favorably considering joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. These efforts will ultimately contribute to the realization of the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific.

In addition to enhancing the authority and effectiveness of the multilateral trading system, and conducting discussions on improving the World Trade Organization's dispute settlement and trade negotiation functions, Yu said the consensus reached during the meeting also highlights trade's role in responding to environmental issues, climate change, and food security, as well as investment facilitation.

Recalling the role of the rules-based multilateral trading system in catalyzing regional growth, the APEC trade ministers said that they are determined to cooperate to ensure the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference, scheduled to be held at the end of this year in Geneva, is successful and delivers tangible results for all, the Singapore-based APEC Secretariat said in a statement.

As a major trading power, China has long been a constructive member of the WTO, faithfully fulfilling its commitments and making great contributions, such as providing capital and technological assistance to developing countries and helping train officials of new WTO members, said Xue Rongjiu, deputy director of the Beijing-based China Society for WTO Studies.

"China supports ongoing efforts to conclude, ratify, implement and upgrade bilateral and regional trade agreements that benefit its consumers, enhance predictability and transparency for businesses, complement the multilateral trading system, and contribute to deeper economic integration in the Asia-Pacific region," he said.

He also said these undertakings are reinforced by APEC's extensive work to support high quality and comprehensive trade and investment outcomes in the region, particularly its ongoing implementation of the Lima Declaration on the FTAAP.

The main purpose of building such a massive free trade area is to establish a modern, comprehensive, high quality and mutually beneficial economic partnership cooperation framework, said Liu Qiufang, marketing director for China business at Andritz, the Graz-headquartered Austrian plant engineering group.

"We believe the healthy economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region will facilitate the sale and export of our products and even our projects in this market, especially in China and Southeast Asia," she said.

Since the pandemic has accelerated the process of digitalization, many APEC member economies have been keen to create an enabling, inclusive and nondiscriminatory digital economy that fosters the application of new technologies, allows businesses and entrepreneurs to thrive, facilitates data flow, and allows goods and services to move seamlessly across borders, said Cui Weijie, vice-president of Beijing-based Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation.

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