New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday she will host the first informal meeting of APEC leaders virtually on Friday to discuss the Asia-Pacific region's COVID-19 recovery and economic crisis.

The online meeting will bring together the leaders of 21 member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, such as Japan, the United States and China, before the traditional APEC leaders' meeting in the fall. New Zealand now holds the rotating APEC presidency.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to media after visiting Hayward Ave and nearby streets in Papatoetoe to see the damage of a tornado on June 25, 2021 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Getty/Kyodo)  

"This is the first time in APEC's history that Leaders have held an additional meeting at Leaders' level, and it reflects our desire to navigate together out of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis," Ardern said in a statement.

With containing COVID-19 through rapid, safe and effective vaccination also on the agenda, "I'll be inviting discussion on immediate measures to achieve more coordinated regional action to assist recovery, as well as steps that will support inclusive and sustainable growth over the long term," the prime minister added.

APEC's 21 member economies are home to about 2.9 billion people and represent approximately 60 percent of global economic output, as well as around 50 percent of world trade.