WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) – New Zealand is calling on the world to end tariffs on face masks, syringes and other supplies needed to fight the coronavirus epidemic.
New Zealand is pushing for APEC as the virtual host of this year’s 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Forum, which includes Japan, China, Canada and the United States.
New Zealand hopes that forum members will quickly agree on a list of products that should remove tariffs, and that “list” will then be used as a model by other nations around the world.
“It is a disappointing, objective fact that many economies in our region impose tariffs even on vaccines,” said VANGELIS VITALIS, Chairman of the APEC Summit.
He listed examples of tariffs set by APEC countries. Soap: 5%. Vaccines: 6%. Syringes: 21%. Specialized refrigerators that can store the Pfizer vaccine at minus 70 Celsius (-94 Fahrenheit) at 30%.
Last year, New Aland’s land removed tariffs from such viral stocks. Vitalis said APEC could be more disgusting than other groups like the World Trade Organization.
“At the moment, no international organization has agreed on a package of medical products,” Vitalis said. “You would think that it was quite obvious that face masks and syringes were an important part of that.”
In addition to ending tariffs, Vitalis hopes the forum countries will agree on ways to facilitate the transport of vaccines, medical supplies across the border, such as lifting export restrictions and simplifying customs procedures.
“The answer must be urgent,” Vitalis said.
The initiative is based on a more general agreement reached by 21 states at a forum in Malaysia last year. It comes ahead of the final meetings of the first round of high-ranking officials on Thursday-Friday.
Like Malaysia, New Zealand hosts APEC meetings online, not in person because of the epidemic. The months of the forum meetings will be summed up with a meeting of the leaders in November with a declaration.
Vitalis said members were also working on ways to improve food safety during the epidemic.
He said that the forum is waiting for how the current US administration will deal with it.
“We are hopeful that we will find common ground on some of the key issues for New Zealanders,” he said, referring to issues such as climate change.