S'pore will donate Covid-19 vaccines under COVAX initiative to other countries: PM Lee

"Vaccine multilateralism".

Sulaiman Daud | Faris Alfiq | July 16, 2021, 11:49 PM

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that Singapore intends to donate its excess vaccines under the Covid-19 Vaccine Global Access (Covax) initiative to other countries.

Speaking during the APEC Informal Leaders Retreat, held online for the first time on July 16, he urged APEC economies to support one another for present and future pandemics.

PM Lee added that countries who are ahead of their vaccination programmes should "make their excess vaccine supplies available to others".

Three areas of cooperation

During the retreat, chaired by New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, PM Lee also highlighted three areas in which APEC economies can work together.

Preparing for future pandemics

"COVID-19 will not be the last, nor the most serious pandemic the world will face," PM Lee said. He cited a G20 report that said multilateralism is the best way to guard against another pandemic.

A collective investment in a global surveillance system for pandemics would help countries act early on to check the spread of emerging diseases.

A swift global governance and financing mechanism can also plug gaps in global health security. PM Lee said that within the region, APEC economies can support each other by providing technical assistance to improve national public health.

PM Lee added:

"And also, countries whose vaccination programmes are ahead should make their excess vaccine supplies available to others. Thus, Singapore intends to donate our vaccines under the COVAX initiative to other countries."

Reconnect economies, pursue trade liberalisation

PM Lee also urged APEC members to reconnect its economies and pursue trade liberalisation.

He spoke up in favour of free trade as essential to global recovery, and said that "prompt implementation" of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement will make trade faster and cheaper, and strengthen supply chains.

PM Lee also urged other countries to work together to facilitate international air travel, by developing common standards for digital vaccine certificates and identities

Cooperate on new areas of growth

Lastly, PM Lee called upon member states to cooperate on new areas of growth such as digital and green economy.

He pointed out that the pandemic has accelerated the switch towards a digital economy, and highlighted Singapore's Digital Economy Agreements with Chile, Australia and New Zealand.

However, Singapore is also vulnerable to climate change. While our national impact may be limited compared to bigger countries, Singapore is looking at Green Economy Agreements to facilitate trade and investment in environmental goods and services, and strengthen environmental governance and capabilities.

Vaccine multilateralism

Singapore previously had pushed for a more equitable distribution of vaccines.

During his ministry's Committee of Supply Debate, Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan pointed out that Singapore helped to establish the Covax purchase mechanism, which ensures that low- and lower-middle-income countries will be able to obtain vaccines at a subsidised rate.

He described Singapore's position as a "net donor" of this initiative.

In the early stages of the pandemic (June 2020), PM Lee also pushed to embrace the idea of vaccine multilateralism.

This is to move away from the short-term thinking of "vaccine nationalism" and promote a sustainable way to fight the pandemic globally.

Top image via PMO Video Lee Hsien Loong/Facebook