Sydney, Australia, Jul 16 (EFE).- New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and United States President Joe Biden on Friday reaffirmed their commitment to maintaining stability in the Indo-Pacific region, in a telephone conversation ahead of an emergency APEC summit.
The leaders agreed on the strategic importance of keeping the region “free and open,” without explicitly mentioning the issues in a region where China maintains territorial disputes with several countries.
“The United States and New Zealand share many common values and interests, including a commitment to an open and rules-based Indo-Pacific,” Ardern said of this region crucial for maritime trade.
The White House said in a statement that Ardern and Biden “discussed our interest in maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific region, and President Biden underscored the enduring US commitment to the region.”
The leaders also highlighted the importance of close cooperation for an extraordinary meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC) organized by New Zealand and held later Friday, in which issues related to the pandemic, such as the distribution of vaccines and economic losses, will be addressed.
During their conversation, the two leaders also discussed “vaccine roll-out, both domestically and in the Pacific region and both our countries’ efforts to ensure vaccine availability,” Ardern said.
Some Southeast Asian and Pacific Island nations are currently battling severe Covid-19 outbreaks amid a lack of vaccines.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping will also participate in this first emergency summit in the history of APEC.
Founded in 1989, APEC represents 60 percent of the world’s GDP, more than half of global trade, forms a market that encompasses 40 percent of the world population and aims to establish a free-trade zone between the 21 members.
In the territory covered by the bloc, Covid-19 – with around 50 million cases and 1 million deaths among its 2.9 billion inhabitants – last year caused a joint gross domestic product contraction of 1.9 percent and the loss of 81 million jobs, according to its data.
The economies that make up APEC are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, South Korea, the United States, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. EFE