Azmin: Apec should facilitate affordable, equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines

Senior Minister cum International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali at the press conference in the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Miti), March 18, 2021. — Photo by Hari Anggara
Senior Minister cum International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali at the press conference in the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Miti), March 18, 2021. — Photo by Hari Anggara

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KUALA LUMPUR, June 6 — The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) should do its utmost to facilitate affordable and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines, Senior Minister cum International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali said.

While stressing the importance for Apec to guard against vaccine nationalism and stockpiling of vaccines, Azmin reiterated the strong call by Apec leaders last year to treat Covid-19 vaccines as global public goods.

“As such, Malaysia looks forward to the commencement of the text-based negotiations on the temporary waiver of certain provisions in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS) agreement, as these will enhance the affordability of, and accessibility to Covid-19 vaccines,” he said in a statement today.

The statement was released following the virtual 27th Apec Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting held on June 5, which was attended by a Malaysian delegation led by Azmin.

The minister also emphasised the need and urgency for Apec to optimise all policy tools and act collectively in ensuring trade continues to flow unimpeded during these trying times.

While recognising the importance of innovation and digitalisation, Azmin urged officials to expedite the adoption of digitalisation, taking into account the pressing challenges faced by Apec during the pandemic.

In this regard, he strongly encourages Apec economies to share relevant data and information relating to Covid-19 through the Apec Covid-19 Latest and Immediate Virtual Exchange, a digital information-sharing platform launched last year.

On Malaysia’s priorities towards achieving concrete outcomes of the WTO 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12), Azmin said it was imperative that the organisation restored the fully functioning of the appellate body to safeguard the predictability and stability of the multilateral trading system.

He also underscored the importance of concluding the negotiations on fisheries subsidies, which would send a strong signal that the WTO can deliver a multilateral outcome.

In the case of Malaysia, Azmin said subsidies were meant for targeted groups with the prime objective to improve the livelihoods of thousands of low-income fishermen, who depended on small-scale fishing for their living.

“Nonetheless, special and differential treatment should remain an integral part in the negotiations,” he added. — Bernama

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