APEC leaders meet to discuss cooperation on COVID-19 response

©Kyodo News

Leaders of 21 Pacific Rim economies began a virtual summit on Friday to discuss the response to the coronavirus and adopt a new vision for post-pandemic cooperation in the region.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is set to participate in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum along with U.S. President Donald Trump, making his first appearance on the global stage since losing the presidential election earlier this month.

Officials from Malaysia, this year's APEC chair, said they are preparing for the leaders to issue a joint statement for the first time in three years. Last year's meeting was canceled due to political unrest in Chile, while U.S.-China friction prevented agreement on a document in 2018.

The leaders are also set to adopt the APEC Post-2020 Vision, which will replace the 1994 Bogor Goals, in setting the forum's objectives for promoting free trade and regional connectivity in the aftermath of a pandemic that has claimed more than a million lives and upended the global economy.

The summit is being held days after 15 Asia-Pacific countries including Japan, China and ASEAN members, signed a landmark deal to create the world's biggest free trade bloc, facilitating the flow of goods and services and lowering barriers to investment.

Trump is expected to participate in the summit for the first time since 2017 after skipping an international conference involving the Association of Southeast Asian Nations last week following his election loss to former Vice President Joe Biden.

Founded in 1989, APEC is a platform for discussions on free trade and economic cooperation by Pacific Rim countries covering 37 percent of the global population, 48 percent of the world's trade volume and 60 percent of global gross domestic product.

The group consists of Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.