Foreign Affairs

NZ to host ‘virtual’ APEC in 2021

APEC 2021 is headed online, with the complications of coronavirus causing New Zealand to rethink plans to host the international forum next year

New Zealand has abandoned plans to physically host the prestigious APEC forum in 2021, with the Government instead opting for a “virtual” event given uncertainties caused by Covid-19.

Announcing the decision on Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said the global disruptions caused by Covid-19, including border restrictions, had been the major factor in the Government’s decision.

“Given the current global environment, planning to have such a large volume of high-level visitors in New Zealand from late 2020 onwards is impractical,” Peters said.

 “For planning and security reasons, we had to make a call on our APEC hosting now. It wasn’t practical to wait for many more months till a clearer picture of the virus’ spread emerged.”

While the APEC Leaders’ Week would not have been held until November 2021, Peters said thousands of people would have started to stream into the country from later this year - including some from virus hotspots - for earlier events as part of New Zealand’s year-long hosting programme.

“We simply couldn’t guarantee these people would be able to enter New Zealand without being quarantined. This decision to ‘go virtual’ is a pragmatic solution which preserves New Zealand’s longstanding commitment to host APEC 2021,” Peters said.

Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker said the APEC forum had an important role to play as New Zealand and the rest of the Asia-Pacific region responded to the Covid-19 crisis, particularly its economic repercussions.

“Deciding now on the different format of the APEC meetings gives certainty and allows us to focus on achieving meaningful outcomes through virtual means for New Zealand and the APEC membership,” Parker said.

Responding to the news, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said he was disappointed but understood why the Government had opted against a physical event.

“APEC would have been an amazing opportunity for Auckland to showcase what we have to the world. However, given the uncertain times with COVID-19 it makes sense that the meeting has now moved to a virtual platform,” Goff said.

The decision seems to have put paid to 2020 host Malaysia’s hopes that it could have its hosting rights carried over to next year given the disruption caused by the pandemic, a request first reported by Newsroom

While New Zealand could have agreed to defer its own hosting year in the hopes the world would return to a more normal environment, the $330 million price tag attached to the event may have been a factor in the Government’s decision to instead opt for a digital event.

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