Scott Morrison will kick off a weekend of virtual global meetings on Friday with the APEC leaders’ summit.
Outgoing US President Donald Trump has confirmed he will join the gathering online from the White House situation room, having not attended any of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings since his first in 2017.
Mr Morrison is in quarantine at The Lodge in Canberra following his trip to Japan to meet with its new prime minister Yoshihide Suga.
The APEC summit – hosted by Malaysia – is expected to discuss joint efforts in steering the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and ensuring that trade barriers aren’t imposed as nations seek to exit recession.
The prime minister will also take part in the G20 summit, hosted by Saudi Arabia, on Saturday and Sunday, as well as a meeting with European leaders.
“This year, as we respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever to demonstrate our commitment to cooperation and the value of multilateral organisations,” Mr Morrison said ahead of the meetings.
“Both forums will be an opportunity to work collaboratively with international partners to set a constructive pathway to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
He said the key to recovery would be equitable access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.
“We will also discuss enabling trade and open markets through a multilateral trading system, to strengthen supply chains, that will also help Australia’s economic recovery.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is also among the 21 leaders at the virtual APEC, told a forum before the summit his country was committed to openness and co-operation while sticking to international trade rules.
He said “mounting unilateralism, protectionism and bullying as well as backlash against economic globalisation” had added to risks and uncertainties in the world economy.
Mr Trump, who is set to hand over the keys to the White House in January to Joe Biden, has run an “America First” trade policy over the past four years, including tariffs on billions of dollars worth of Chinese products sparking a trade war.
Mr Biden has signalled a return to multilateralism pursued during Barack Obama’s presidency, though questions remain over whether the new president would reverse Trump-era policies.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told the forum he expected “more multilateralists” in the Biden administration.
“I think that they will be more supportive of the WTO, and of APEC. I am not sure that they will be more keen on throwing the doors wide open, or joining the CPTPP, because that depends on domestic politics too,” he said, referring to the successor to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.