New Zealand will host a virtual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in 2021.

The global disruption caused by COVID-19, including resultant border restrictions, had been the major factor in the decision, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Winston Peters said in a statement on Tuesday.

"COVID-19 has seriously impacted how we conduct international diplomacy. That includes hosting APEC. As has occurred with many other international government-to-government events, APEC 2021 will proceed using virtual digital platforms," Peters 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," he said.

"For planning and security reasons, we had to make a call on our APEC hosting now. It wasn't practical to wait for many more months till a clearer picture of the virus' spread emerged," he said.

"While the Leaders' Week isn't till November 2021, 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. We simply couldn't guarantee these people would be able to enter New Zealand without being quarantined," Peters said.

This decision to "go virtual" is a pragmatic solution which preserves New Zealand's longstanding commitment to host APEC 2021, he added.