APEC leaders discuss COVID, trade

Leaders from 21 countries and territories gathered for an online meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. They reaffirmed their commitment to help the global economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

New Zealand served as the host. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the leaders agreed to put a priority on improving access to vaccines. She called vaccines a central part of how the region will manage and recover from the pandemic.

APEC members pledged to share vaccine production technologies and ease customs procedures. They released a statement saying, "Nobody is safe until everyone is safe."

The leaders also agreed to take steps to develop digital infrastructure and to make sure everyone has access to technology. They said they will also coordinate their actions against climate change.

Free trade was also on the agenda. Eleven APEC nations are members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. China and Taiwan recently applied to join. But Beijing opposes Taiwan's membership, saying the island is a part of China. President Xi Jinping reiterated his country's eagerness to join.

Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio expressed caution about China's intention. He said the TPP does not allow unfair trade or economic coercion.

The leaders ended the meeting with a pledge to enhance trade agreements within the region.