COVID ends Auckland's APEC hosting dream

Ben McKay

New Zealand will host a virtual APEC Summit next year, with COVID-19 ending hopes of welcoming the world's most powerful leaders to Auckland.

The major gathering of Asia-Pacific world leaders - including the USA, China, Japan, Russia and Australia - was to be staged in New Zealand next November.

However, Foreign Minister Winston Peters announced a scaleback of plans on Tuesday, saying "COVID-19 has seriously impacted how we conduct international diplomacy".

"For planning and security reasons, we had to make a call on our APEC hosting now," he said.

"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."

New Zealand is one of a handful of major countries to have eliminated COVID-19 within the community and is currently operating a hard border and mandatory 14-say isolation on arrival.

"If we had hosted an in-person APEC we would have seen thousands of people entering NZ from late 2020 onwards, some from COVID-19 hotspots," Mr Peters continued.

"We simply couldn't guarantee these people would be able to enter New Zealand without being quarantined."

Trade Minister David Parker said "we will continue to look to find ways to showcase New Zealand and leverage the virtual hosting of APEC to our national advantage".

New Zealand last hosted APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) in 1999.

Then, US President Bill Clinton attended along with the Jiang Zemin, the first president of China to visit the South Pacific country.

Hosting APEC involves staging a series of meetings across the year, culminating in the leaders' gatherings in November.

This year's host, Malaysia, has also run virtual meetings.

Last year's summit in Chile was cancelled to due to major inequality protests in the capital, Santiago.