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New Zealand's PM Ardern calls emergency APEC meeting on COVID-19; Singapore's PM Lee to attend

New Zealand's PM Ardern calls emergency APEC meeting on COVID-19; Singapore's PM Lee to attend

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (left) and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. (Photos: Reuters, MCI)

WELLINGTON: New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday (Jul 12) announced a hastily convened virtual meeting of APEC leaders this week to discuss the Asia-Pacific region's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact.

Ardern is scheduled to host the annual 21-nation (APEC) summit online in November, but called an additional "informal" meeting for this Friday (Jul 16) to examine immediate steps to address the crisis.

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will attend the virtual APEC Informal Leaders' Retreat on COVID-19, his office said on Monday in response to media queries.

"This is the first time in APEC's history that leaders have had an additional meeting at leaders' level and it reflects our desire to navigate together out of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis," Ardern said in a statement.

"APEC economies have suffered their biggest contraction since World War II over the past year, with 81 million jobs lost - responding collectively is vital to accelerate the economic recovery for the region."

READ: COVID-19 Delta variant puts brakes on return to normality

The APEC grouping brings together Pacific Rim countries ranging from the United States to Papua New Guinea, collectively accounting for about 60 per cent of global gross domestic product.

As host nation for 2021, New Zealand has already signalled its intention to expedite the trade of COVID-19 vaccines and medical material across the region.

Ardern said Friday's meeting would examine issues such as vaccination roll-outs and how governments could protect jobs and the economy.

"I will be inviting discussion on immediate measures to achieve more coordinated regional action to assist recovery, as well as steps that will support inclusive and sustainable growth over the long term," she said.

"APEC leaders will work together to get through the pandemic ... because nobody is safe until everyone is safe."

Logistical details of Friday's meeting were not immediately released.

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Source: CNA/afp/dv

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