CANBERRA, Australia – US President Joe Biden, his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Russian President Vladimir Putin are among the leaders of the Pacific RIM to discuss strategies for recovering from the COVID-19 epidemic.
The 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum will be chaired by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Friday.
However, epidemic and vaccine diplomacy has proved to be a divisive issue among members of a forum that says its primary goal is to support sustainable economic growth and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.
A White House statement said Biden spoke by phone with Arden on Friday before the leaders retreated, and a White House statement said Biden discussed US interest in maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
“They also discussed our cooperation and engagement with the Pacific island nations,” the statement said.
The Biden administration kept a premium for relations with allies in the Pacific early in its administration.
One of the first high-profiles of his diplomacy as president was to host a virtual summit with collaborating leaders from Quad-Australia, India and Japan – at the center of his efforts to tackle a growing military and economic power. And he hosted Suga and South Korean President Moon Jae-in for the first person-to-foreign meeting of his president. South Korea is an APEC member and India is not the only country in the quad.
Biden plans to use the virtual APEC retreat to talk to leaders about his administration’s efforts to fight the Kovid-19 epidemic and “how coalition members can help revitalize the global economy,” as a vaccine arsenal to the world, according to a senior Biden administration official. He was not allowed to comment publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The United States will supply 4.5 million doses of the vaccine to Indonesia, 2 million to Vietnam, 1 million to Malaysia and soon 3.2 million to the Philippines. Grants will also be provided soon in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Papua New Guinea, the White House said. Laos and Cambodia are the only non-APEC members to receive these eight vaccines.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the “important meeting” came at a critical time as the world faced a resurgence of Kovid-19 infections and international cooperation against the epidemic entered a new phase.
“We hope that all parties can hold the vision of an Asia-Pacific community with a prosperous future, advance the Asia-Pacific partnership, send a positive message of fighting the coronavirus with solidarity and deepen economic recovery and cooperation.” Zhao said.
Japan’s Prime Minister Katsunobu Kato has said that Suga will talk about his determination to host a safe and secure Olympics when the Games begin in Tokyo on July 23.
Kogo said he would also reaffirm Japan’s determination to secure a fair access to the vaccine in all countries and territories to support global efforts to stop the COVD-19 epidemic, Kato said.
Arden said the meeting of APEC’s first leaders outside the General Annual Summit “reflects our desire to navigate together from the Covid-19 epidemic and the economic crisis.”
“APEC’s economies are in their biggest contraction since World War II, compared to last year, losing 71 million jobs. A concerted response is needed to accelerate the region’s economic recovery, “said Arden, whose South-Pacific island nation is one of the world’s most successful in transmitting the virus.
The speed of the international vaccine rollout and the conditions attached to the international vaccine deal are a matter of concern among APEC members.
There are allegations against the United States of collecting several vaccines. Biden came up with very little in his way of delivering 60 million doses of the global COVID-19 vaccine by the end of June, as a host of logistical and regulatory hurdles slowed down US vaccine diplomacy.
Although the Biden administration has announced that about 50 countries and entities will receive a portion of the additional COVID-19 vaccine, the United States sent more than 24 million doses to 10 recipient countries by July 1, an Associated Press statement said.
Taiwan, an APEC member who claims China as a redistribution zone, has accused Beijing of tying up political supplies to the supply of the coronavirus vaccine. The self-governing island’s government says China has intervened to cut off vaccine supplies to Taiwan from allied APEC members Japan and the United States.
China has accused Australia of interfering in the rollout of Chinese vaccines in the former Australian colony of Papua New Guinea. Australia and Papua New Guinea are both APEC members.
Sino-Australian relations soured last year when Australia called for an independent inquiry into the source of the epidemic and its response.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who will attend the meeting, said in a statement that now is an important time for Australia to engage with regional partners to facilitate free trade, especially for vaccines and essential products; Create momentum to strengthen the multilateral trading system; And secure a sustainable and inclusive recovery. “
China said it was delivering the COVID-19 vaccine to about 40 African countries by May, describing its action as perfectly benevolent.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry official said the vaccines were “donated or sold at a favorable price”.
The meeting of online leaders that is chaired by the New Zealand capital Wellington and has awakened the region 11 times comes ahead of the annual summit scheduled for November.
New Zealand’s response to the epidemic is the most effective in the world and the country, isolated by 5 million people, has recorded only 26 Kavid-19 deaths. However, vaccination campaigns have been slower than in most developed countries.
Arden said the regional response to one of New Zealand’s top priorities during the annual rotation of the 21-member body from taking over the presidency of APEC from Malaysia.
“I invite discussions on immediate measures to achieve a more integrated regional approach to aid recovery, as well as steps that will support long-term inclusive and sustainable growth.” “APEC leaders will work together to come out of the epidemic and promote a sustainable and inclusive recovery, because no one is safe unless everyone is safe.”