Leaders of nations in the Pacific Rim vowed to abolish tariffs on vaccines and other COVID-19 medical supplies at the virtual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit on Saturday, declaring that expanding equitable vaccine supply remains top priority “because nobody is safe until everyone is safe.” 

US President Joe Biden, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison were among attendees.

"We continue to strongly support equitable access to safe, effective, quality-assured and affordable COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics, therapeutics and other related essential medical products,” leaders from the 21 APEC member economies wrote in a statement. “In this context, we have demonstrated that trade and investment is a critical enabler for addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuring our economies recover stronger.”

Papua New Guinea, an APEC member since 1993, has vaccinated just 1.7% of its population.

The leaders also agreed to advance the region's response to the climate crisis, vowing to halt the increase in subsidies to fossil fuels and increase trade on environmentally-friendly technology, before promising all future APEC meetings would raise the issue of climate change.

"We acknowledge the need for urgent and concrete action to transition to a climate-resilient future global economy and appreciate net zero or carbon neutrality commitments in this regard,” the leaders agreed. “We commit to leverage APEC’s role as an incubator of ideas and capacity building to tackle climate change.”

APEC leaders first endorsed a freeze on lowering the price of fossil fuels back in 2010.

Little has been implemented in the decade since, with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, responsible for chairing this year’s meeting, voicing her dissatisfaction that fossil fuel subsidies were not scrapped altogether this year, according to SBS. 

"Do we need to be more ambitious than this? Absolutely," Ardern said in a video obtained by Reuters. 

Australia, particularly, has a bad reputation when it comes to fossil fuel subsidies. Research by The Australia Institute shows the nation still helps fossil fuel industries with subsidies of more than $10 billion each year, equating to a little under $20,000 offered, per minute, to coal, oil and gas companies.

The latest fossil fuel declaration failed to set a timeline for achievement. 

The 2022 APEC Summit will be held in Thailand. The US and Peru have offered to host the year after and in 2024, respectively.


Demand Equity

APEC Summit: Asia-Pacific Leaders Ramp Up COVID-19 Vaccine Sharing and Address Fossil Fuels

By Madeleine Keck