Key policy achievements

New Zealand ensured APEC’s agenda was relevant to the issues the region was grappling with, in particular responding to the health and economic cost of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During APEC’s first fully virtual year, members laid the foundations for an inclusive, sustainable recovery – setting APEC’s agenda for the next 20 years.

While hosting APEC 2021 virtually in the midst of a global pandemic was challenging, New Zealand successfully led an agenda which supported and enabled trade that is inclusive and sustainable.

A vital pillar of work during New Zealand’s host year was the APEC region’s response to COVID-19, mapping out a response that delivers for all.

Key achievements

See achievement highlights below, or download the PDF [PDF, 457 KB] for an overview of progress achieved against our objectives and policy priorities.

We delivered the Aotearoa Plan of Action

New Zealand led the completion of the Aotearoa Plan of Action(external link) (APA), the implementation plan to bring the APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040 to life.

The plan will see member economies take action to achieve the Vision’s goals on issues such as trade, open markets, innovation, productivity reforms, climate change and indigenous economic empowerment. It will shape economic growth in the Asia Pacific region for the next two decades.

Successfully completing the Aotearoa Plan of Action was an important legacy for New Zealand’s host year, highlighting APEC’s commitment to creating an open, dynamic, resilient and peaceful Asia-Pacific community for future generations.

Read more about the Aotearoa Plan of Action.(external link)

Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacina Ardern holding a copy of the Aotearoa Plan of Action.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacina Ardern holds a copy of the Aotearoa Plan of Action at the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting.

Leading a collaborative regional response to COVID-19

In 2021, APEC made it easier and faster for communities all over the world to obtain life-saving vaccines. As 2021 host, New Zealand drove a collaborative response across APEC to the health and economic impacts of COVID-19.

Significantly, consensus was built on easing trade in vaccines by:

  • Rejecting export restrictions;
  • Supporting a waiver for trade-related intellectual property rights for COVID-19 medicines;
  • Making it easier and faster to get vaccines and other essential goods through ports, and cutting tariffs on vaccines and related products;
  • Securing a commitment that APEC will look at simplifying COVID-19 measures for air crew, as part of APEC’s support for a return of international trade.

As well as providing meaningful benefits for APEC peoples, these actions demonstrated that APEC could respond effectively to challenges such as COVID-19.

New Zealand's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nanaia Mahuta.
Foreign Affairs Minister Nania Mahuta, co-Chair of the APEC Ministerial Meeting.

Trade and economic policies to strengthen recovery

APEC believes that free, fair and open trade would best help communities recover from the pandemic. In 2021 APEC worked on many different ways to make it easier for businesses to keep international trade links going.

Significantly, the forum led the way globally in signalling its support for the World Trade Organization and rejecting protectionism.

With the Asia-Pacific accounting for almost 50% of global trade, it is vital economies worked together to weather the impact of the largest global shock in a generation, and position the region for a strong recovery.

Economies built shared understanding of the economic tools to sustain members through the crisis and then drive a strong and sustainable recovery in the post-pandemic era.

New Zealand's Minister for Trade and Export Growth, Damien O'Connor.
Minister for Trade and Export Growth Damien O'Connor Chairs the APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting.

Sustainability became more prominent in APEC’s agenda

2021 successfully cemented APEC’s focus on climate change for years to come. This was accomplished through the strong reflection of climate change in the Aotearoa Plan of Action and the mainstreaming of climate change across APEC’s work, including trade, finance, food security and structural reform.

Progress was made in facilitating trade in environmental goods and services which help benefit the environment and fight climate change and in agreeing a plan to stop the increase in damaging fossil fuel subsidies. These subsidies mask the true cost of fossil fuels, making other energy options seem more expensive in comparison.

Several oceans and fisheries related initiatives were pursued, including on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing and seabird conservation.

New Zealand's Minister of Small Business Stuart Nash.
Small Business Minister Stuart Nash, Chairs the APEC Small and Medium Enterprises Ministerial Meeting.

Inclusion of Indigenous Peoples and women

Indigenous peoples and women were particularly affected by job losses caused by the pandemic. Harnessing their untapped economic potential will boost recovery efforts and help businesses rebuild with more resilience to future economic shocks.

In 2021, New Zealand’s unique contribution on inclusion was ensuring the region’s 270 million Indigenous Peoples had a place in APEC’s agenda. We worked in partnership with Māori and increased connections between Māori and Indigenous Peoples of the Asia-Pacific in the long-term. Find out more about New Zealand’s work to put Indigenous on the APEC agenda. [Link to indigenous page]

We also built on APEC’s existing work programme on women’s economic empowerment, focusing on how to reverse the US$1 trillion shock of women being driven out of the workforce due to the pandemic.

New Zealand's Minister for Women, Jan Tinetti.
Minister for Women Jan Tinetti Chairs the APEC Women and the Economic Forum.

Digital innovation

Alongside the delivery of the first ever fully virtual APEC, 2021 saw agreement on the importance of the digital economy in driving economic growth through and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Zealand led a wide range of initiatives to drive digital innovation. This included projects on paperless trade, innovation policies, rural broadband access, digital skills training, online learning and food sustainability.

Successfully delivering more than 350 meetings during our host year ­- including two Leaders’ summits and nine Ministerial meetings, plus virtual media conferences - positioned New Zealand as an enabler of digital diplomacy.

New Zealand's Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, David Clark.
Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Chairs the APEC Structural Reform Ministerial Meeting.

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