Jacinda Ardern speaks with US President Joe Biden ahead of APEC COVID-19 meeting

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has spoken with US President Joe Biden ahead of the APEC Informal Leaders' Retreat on COVID-19 on Friday. 

In a statement, Ardern said the pair discussed the upcoming meeting and the "critical importance of working together".

"President Biden and I discussed the forthcoming APEC leaders meeting and the critical importance of working together as a region to navigate out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We also discussed the stability of the Indo-Pacific region. The United States and New Zealand share many common values and interests, including a commitment to an open and rules-based Indo-Pacific.

"I raised the importance of strengthening the economic architecture in the region post-COVID in order to facilitate greater trade and investment."

The pair also discussed New Zealand and the Pacific's vaccine rollouts and the importance of vaccine availability.

The White House said President Biden used the call to commend Ardern for her "steadfast and effective leadership" and discuss the Pacific. 

"They discussed our interest in maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific region, and President Biden underscored the enduring US commitment to the region. 

"The leaders discussed our close partnership on a range of issues, including efforts to support the global economic recovery and to end the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"President Biden commended Prime Minister Ardern for her steadfast and effective leadership throughout the pandemic. President Biden expressed US support for the Christchurch Call to Action. 

"They also discussed our cooperation on and engagement with Pacific Island nations," The White House said in a statement

Biden also thanked Ardern for hosting the APEC retreat 

Ardern announced on Monday that for the first time in APEC history, leaders of member economies will hold an additional meeting with a focus on COVID-19 and its economic implications.

She wants a discussion on "immediate measures to achieve more coordinated regional action" as well as on steps for long-term growth.

"Leaders will share information so we can continue to build on our collective understanding of the region's health response to COVID-19, and shape a collaborative economic response," Ardern said at the time. 

Earlier on Friday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed President Xi Jinping will attend the meeting.

 "This is an important meeting held at a critical time when the world is facing a resurgence of COVID-19 and the international cooperation against the virus has entered a new stage," spokesperson Zhao Lijian said. "China sets great store by the role of APEC as an important platform for regional economic cooperation.

The informal meeting comes amid strained relations between many of the member economies, particularly between China and the United States, which is becoming increasingly vocal about human rights abuses in the Asian nation.

New Zealand has also raised concerns about some activities in China, but ministers say our relationship with it will remain "predictable" and "respectful" despite differences. 

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is a regional economic forum with 21 members, representing 2.9 billion people.

The region accounts for 60 percent of the world's GDP and 48 percent of global trade.

This year the summit is being hosted by New Zealand, though all meetings are taking place virtually due to the ongoing pandemic.