New Zealand will pressure the 21 leaders of Apec countries to agree to the free flow of essential medical supplies in a bid to strengthen multilateralism and tackle rising vaccine nationalism, the minister said. Foreign Affairs of the country to the Financial Times.
Nanaia Mahuta said New Zealand would use its chairmanship of the Apec Forum this year to promote a joint agreement covering the movement of goods, including personal protective equipment, across borders.
“If we can eliminate tariffs, non-tariff barriers, all import restrictions, improve trade facilitation to advance a protocol in this direction [essential goods] space – this is a very tangible area where we show that not only have we learned from our experience, but that we are trying to improve ourselves, ”said Mahuta.
She said the pandemic underscored the importance of international collaboration, citing the example of how scientists had worked to accelerate the development of Covid-19 vaccines. It is now vital that governments ‘turn to multilateralism’ and avoid vaccine nationalism to allow the free flow of vaccines to vulnerable countries, Mahuta added.
Governments scrambled to procure masks, gloves and other PPE last year, as coronavirus outbreaks around the world have caused demand to increase. They are now competing to source Covid-19 vaccines, a trend that has block a vaccine shipment to Australia last month.
Mahuta, the first Maori woman to be appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs and an indigenous rights champion, also said the pandemic has caused governments to reassess their priorities in external relations. Human rights were taking priority after a period in which trade and economic growth had dominated the space, she said.
“People want their economies to go through hard times, but not at the expense of certain population groups in their own countries,” she said, calling on governments to take a more ethical approach to trade and their economies.
Mahuta said Wellington would continue to speak out on human rights violations by Beijing, despite concerns, it could harm economic relations with its main trading partner. Last week, the Foreign Minister signed a joint statement with Marise Payne, Australian Foreign Minister, criticizing Beijing for reports of human rights violations in The western region of Xinjiang in China, where over a million Uyghurs have been detained.
“We have a mature relationship with China,” Mahuta said. “We respect the fact that they are an important trading partner for New Zealand. However, when it comes to human rights, it is a “no surprises” approach that we take. We are consistent in the way we advocate for issues. “
Wellington managed to avoid the type of breakdown of bilateral relations with Beijing as Australia has suffered over the past year.
Mahuta downplayed the prospect of using New Zealand’s Apec presidency to try to negotiate a detente between the two countries, saying there was a limit to what could be done given that the meetings of the organization would not be standing in person this year because of Covid. 19.
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