Leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, including US President Donald Trump, pledged to work for free, open and non-discriminatory trade and investment to revive their coronavirus-stricken economies.
The leaders put aside their differences to issue their first joint statement on Friday, in which they agreed to further deepen regional integration by working on a massive free trade agreement involving the 21 APEC economies.
This year’s host, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, told a press conference that the trade war between the United States and China that had hampered negotiations in the past had been “overshadowed” by the Covid-19 pandemic. Growth in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to fall to 2.7% this year, after growing 3.6% in 2019, he said APEC is focusing on accelerating economic recovery and developing the economy. ‘an affordable vaccine. “The health risks and their impact on the global economic ecosystem have been the top priority for all APEC economies this year,” Yassin said.
APEC countries represent 60% of global GDP. APEC members “pledged to refrain from going back and resorting to protectionist measures to keep markets and borders open,” Yassin added.
The APEC leaders’ meeting was the first since 2018 after last year’s host Chile canceled the annual summit due to violent national protests. Additionally, at the Papua New Guinea summit in 2018, APEC leaders failed to issue a joint statement amid a US-China dispute over trade policies.
Trump’s participation on Friday, his first since 2017, came as a surprise as he challenges the outcome of the US presidential election, which Joe Biden won. Last weekend, Trump skipped East Asian summits and stepped down from speaking at an APEC CEO meeting. Trump, whose “America First” policy alienated trading partners, addressed the meeting but his speech was not immediately available.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, in his remarks, urged countries to “defend multilateralism” and called for the creation of an “Asia-Pacific free trade area at an early date.” He informed the gathering that Beijing “will actively consider” joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal that includes Japan, Canada, Mexico and other regional economies, but not the United States. Trump withdrew from the CPTPP’s predecessor, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which never took effect. Xi’s comments came just after Beijing and 14 other Asian countries signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the world’s largest free trade agreement.
If China joined the CPTPP, it would make the Xi government a member of the two largest trade deals in the Asia-Pacific region, while Washington is not a member of either.
APEC leaders adopted the Putrajaya Vision 2040, a new 20-year growth vision to replace the Bogor goals named after the Indonesian city where the leaders agreed in 1994 to liberate and open trade and investment. They pledged to build an “open, vibrant, resilient and peaceful region” by 2040, and instructed officers to develop implementation plans by next year.
“We recognize the importance of a free, open, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent and predictable business and investment environment to stimulate economic recovery at such a difficult time,” said a joint statement. “We resolve to continue leading the region towards recovery. On the path of strong, balanced, inclusive, sustainable, innovative and secure economic growth,” the statement added.
Earlier on Friday, leaders of Japan and New Zealand warned countries against the temptation to fall back into trade protectionism. Speaking via video link from Tokyo at the APEC CEO meeting, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said that “rule-making for a free and fair global economy is of critical importance.” While continuing to promote WTO reform, he said Japan “will aspire to the Asia-Pacific Free Trade Zone. “
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who will host APEC next year, expressed hope that APEC leaders will join hands in strengthening the regional economy. “As we face the greatest economic challenge of this generation, we must not repeat the mistakes of history by relapsing into protectionism. APEC must continue to be committed to keeping markets open and trade flowing, ”she said.
APEC brings together Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New – Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States.
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