2021 – APEC 2021

It isa tribute to Kiwi determination that New Zealand has developed digital diplomacy to such a high art form that next week’s meeting of the Apec political leaders will take place fully virtually, in the midst of a global pandemic.

Preparations for our hosting of Apec — the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum — began four years ago. They will culminate with a range of meetings which, due to Covid-19, will be held virtually.

This, rather than a show-stopping series of political leaders’ meetings book-ended by a few official State visits, where 20 heads of government from around the Asia- Pacific — including China’s Xi Jinping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and US president Joe Biden — would have converged on Auckland, as planned, before the pandemic emerged.

Apec is a big deal for New Zealand.

The 21 economies that comprise Apec are home to 2.7 billion people and make up half of global domestic product. The forum was established in 1989 to promote free trade, sustainable economic growth and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific. It gives New Zealand an equal voice at the table with much bigger players in high-level conversations which are important for the development of regional prosperity.

A central thrust of this year’s agenda has been New Zealand’s responsibility as Apec host to write an implementation plan for the Putrajaya Vision 2040. This is a vision for an “open, dynamic, resilient and peaceful Asia-Pacific community by 2040, for the prosperity of all of our people and future generations”.

Trade Minister Damien O’Connor and Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta will set the preparation for the political leaders in discussions with their colleagues from around the Asia-Pacific.

That meeting has been under- pinned by a huge amount of co- ordination and work led by two deputy secretaries from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Vangelis Vitalis and Andrea Smith.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will chair what is known as the Apec Economic Leaders retreat.

The Covid-19 pandemic has challenged all Apec leaders and it will be top of the agenda for them.

As the Prime Minister writes in this Herald report today, the 21 Apec economies have been “dealt an opportunity to strike an economic reset on a scale we haven’t seen since the Second World War”. Jacinda Ardern wants her Apec colleagues to take the opportunity to “emerge from this pandemic stronger and more resilient than we were before”.

She is confident that the policies Apec has committed to will make positive, real and lasting contributions towards combating climate change, uniting against vaccine nationalism, and front-footing discussions on an inclusive and digital recovery.

A group of Apec business leaders led by New Zealand’s Rachel Taulelei will also meet (virtually) with the Apec leaders during their retreat.

The other major event on next week’s agenda is the Apec CEO Summit. It will be chaired by Barbara Chapman, who is chair of NZME,

publisher of the NZ Herald and feature addresses by Apec political leaders and also the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, heavyweight chief executives, thought-leaders, academics and young leaders.

Our Apec 2021 report provides insights into next week’s events, the policy agenda and the key players.

Enjoy their perspectives.

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