APEC Ministers Agree to Facilitate Vaccine Distribution, Flow

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Ministers responsible for trade in the Asia-Pacific region said they would work to expedite the distribution and flow of vaccines and other essential medical supplies between economies to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation which includes the U.S., China and Japan said they would “consider removing unnecessary barriers to trade in services, particularly those services that expedite and facilitate the flow of essential goods,” according to a statement late Saturday. The trade ministers stopped short of making a broad commitment to remove tariffs.

Trade barriers surrounding the import and export of vaccines have been highlighted as one of the key factors inhibiting a wider spread of inoculation in developing countries. The day before the APEC trade ministers meeting, they held a dialogue with Rachel Taulelei, the 2021 chair of the APEC Business Advisory Council, who advocated unrestricted trade of vaccines and essential medical supplies.

The 21-member APEC economies will also discuss measures such as “a temporary waiver of certain intellectual property protections on Covid-19 vaccines,” in the months leading up to the World Trade Organization’s ministerial conference scheduled for late November, according to the statement.

The idea of waiving intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines is being promoted by some aid groups and the U.S. as a way to speed up the end of the pandemic by allowing a wider range of companies and countries to manufacture their own shots.

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