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Pacific Rim leaders agree to step up COVID vaccine sharing

Leaders of Asia Pacific nations on Friday agreed to step up COVID-19 vaccine sharing as China said it had committed US$3 billion in international aid to support response efforts. coronavirus in developing countries.

The virtual retreat for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders including US President Joe Biden, Chinese Premier Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Russian President Vladimir Putin was held. because the delta variant is driving a spike in infections globally.

“There are two things that have come through very strongly from the leaders. One is that this pandemic has some time to run and we all have a lot of important work to do, and it needs to look beyond our domestic borders,” said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who chaired the meeting. Unofficial withdrawal said. “The second strongest theme is agreement and acceptance … that this will not be the last pandemic we experience and preparedness is very important.”

Xi told the leaders in a pre-recorded message broadcast during their private session that Beijing would spend $3 billion to help poorer countries respond to COVID-19 over the next three years, according to the New York Times. China’s official Xinhua News Agency. China says it has provided more than 500 million doses of the vaccine to other developing countries.

Vaccine sharing has proven to be a divisive issue among the forum’s members, who say the forum’s main goal is to support sustainable economic growth and prosperity in the Asia region. – Pacific.

The Biden administration failed to meet its goal of delivering 80 million doses of the vaccine to the rest of the world by the end of June due to a series of regulatory and logistical hurdles that slowed the pace of the US effort.

Biden told leaders during the meeting that he was committed to delivering more than 500 million doses of the vaccine to countries around the globe, according to the White House, which said “the administration’s sole goal remains to save lives.” “.

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“He made it clear that the United States was funding our vaccines, not selling them, and stressed the importance of not attaching any political or economic conditions to vaccine supply. ,” the White House said in a statement.

Taiwan, an APEC member that China claims as a rebel territory, has accused Beijing of tying the supply of a coronavirus vaccine to political demands. The self-governing island’s government said China had intervened to prevent the shipment of vaccines to Taiwan from APEC members Japan and the United States.

Meanwhile, China accuses Australia of interfering with China’s vaccine deployment in Papua New Guinea, a former Australian colony. Both Australia and Papua New Guinea are also members of APEC.

The leaders also pledged to take action to reduce the expensive tariffs that complicate cross-border vaccine shipments ahead of the APEC meeting in November. Vials, syringes and packaging are frequently required faces significant tariffs, which Ardern describes as “a very real problem that APEC economies are capable of undoing”.

Biden planned to use the retreat to talk to fellow leaders about his administration’s efforts to serve “as a panacea for the world” and discuss how members of alliances can work to boost the global economy who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to comment publicly.

The United States has shipped more than 53 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to more than 30 countries and territories, with plans to ship at least 30 million more as soon as recipient countries resolve regulatory and regulatory barriers. logistics. They mark the Biden administration’s down payment plan to buy and donate 500 million more doses of the drug to the world next year.

The US has donated 4.5 million doses of vaccine to Indonesia, 2 million to Vietnam and 1 million to Malaysia, and 3.2 million doses will soon be delivered to the Philippines. The White House said donations to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Papua New Guinea will be delivered soon. Laos and Cambodia are the only countries among the eight vaccine recipients that are not APEC members.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the “important meeting” comes at a critical time when the world is facing an increase in the number of COVID-19 infections and international cooperation against the pandemic. has entered a new phase.

“We hope all parties can uphold the vision of an Asia-Pacific community with a common future, realize the Asia-Pacific partnership, send the message positive on combating the coronavirus and deepening economic recovery and cooperation.”

APEC countries have lost more than 80 million jobs during the pandemic as the global economy sinks into restrictions and shutdowns.

The Biden administration has valued caring about relationships with allies in the Pacific early on in his administration.

One of his first high-level diplomatic acts as president was to host a virtual summit with the leaders of the Quad – Australia, India and Japan – a central group in the effort. his efforts to counter China’s growing military and economic might. And he hosted Suga and South Korean President Moon Jae-in for the first face-to-face meetings with foreign leaders of his presidency. South Korea is a member of APEC, and India is the only country in the Quartet that is not a member.

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Associated Press writers Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.

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Huynh Nguyen

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