Keynote address to APEC High-level meeting on Health and the Economy
Making the case for health equity in a COVID-19 world
Esteemed fellow ministers, delegates and colleagues – Tēnā koutou katoa – it is my pleasure to welcome you all to APEC’s 11th High-Level Meeting on Health and the Economy.
The theme for this meeting is making the economic case for health equity in a COVID-19 world.
It’s an idea that sits squarely with Aotearoa-New Zealand’s approach to dealing with the pandemic, because as our Prime Minister has said, nobody is safe until everybody is safe.
The pandemic has been with us for 20 months, and the world is still adjusting to the uncertainty it brings and the constant way the virus changes.
One thing that is certain, however, is that good health and economic prosperity are interdependent.
When we look across the world we can see the toll of COVID-19 has not been borne equally – either between countries or within countries.
The poorest have been hardest hit.
We must work together, both within APEC and more widely, to put equity at the heart of all efforts to combat COVID-19.
New Zealand’s priorities for its year hosting APEC are:
- promoting economic and trade policies that will strengthen recovery from the pandemic,
- pursuing innovation and a digitally enabled recovery, and
- increasing inclusion and sustainability - including valuing the contributions of women and indigenous people.
Here in Aotearoa New Zealand, the fact that we’ve largely been able to limit community transmission of COVID-19 has allowed us to enjoy some of the freest conditions in the world.
That’s been good not only for our people and our economy, but also for our health system.
Even now, as we respond to our first outbreak of the Delta variant, we are able to continue to pursue a COVID-19 elimination strategy. This is what the health and scientific advice tell us is the best thing to do at this stage.
Our pandemic health plan involves social and economic measures, as well as more traditional healthcare.
For example, to make sure the pandemic doesn’t cost people their livelihoods, we are subsidising wages as part of a suite of support for businesses.
As we roll out our vaccination programme across the country, we’re working with communities to make sure we get it to everyone.
We are making sure our indigenous Māori, Pacific and marginalised groups are effectively represented in our COVID-19 planning.
Equity is a driving force for us at home and in the Pacific.
Our COVID-19 response must not exacerbate inequality.
Internationally, we are contributing to efforts to ensure more equitable provision of vaccines, and we will increase our efforts on this.
We have committed to full eligible population coverage of our nearest neighbours in the Pacific, including those with whom we have a constitutional relationship or strong historical and cultural ties.
Globally, we recognise the critical importance of trade fora, and other areas of international dialogue, to ensure more equitable supplied of vaccines and COVID-19 therapeutic products.
For example, in 2020, Aotearoa New Zealand supported a political commitment within APEC to maintain open trade in essential goods, including medical supplies.
This year, we are taking action to strengthen international supply chains for COVID-19 vaccines and related goods, to ensure their swift and efficient distribution.
It is vital we strengthen our collective efforts on trade barriers, and that we help facilitate increased manufacturing and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and related products.
Given extraordinary global levels of demand for vaccines and inadequate vaccine supply, we have supported text-based negotiations for a temporary waiver of intellectual property rights.
And we recognise that multilateral processes are central to combatting COVID-19, including the recommendations of the International Panel on Pandemic Preparedness and Response.
This country is actively involved in work to:
- improve surveillance
- strengthen the World Health Organisation, and to
- assess potential benefits of a pandemic treaty or appropriate instrument.
This global process, culminating in a Special Session of the World Health Assembly in November, will be vital to making sure we are better prepared for the impacts of future pandemics.
We all have a role to play in ensuring the world emerges stronger from this pandemic.
Our approach must be global, our commitment collective, and our actions encompass all levels of society.
As the Minister representing the APEC 2021 Host Economy, I welcome your engagement in this year’s High-Level Meeting and thank you for your attendance.
Through this dialogue, we can jointly reinforce our commitment to health equity and building resilient health systems, alongside sustainable economic growth.
Join, work, grow. Together. Or in the words of our indigenous language, Haumi ē, hui ē, taiki ē. Thank you.