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Apec leaders commit to open markets

BANGKOK: Apec leaders wrapped up their first day of talks in Bangkok yesterday (Nov 18) with a pledge to keep supply chains and markets open, on a day when a North Korean missile launch cast a shadow over other events.

Saturday 19 November 2022, 10:00AM

Photo: AFP

Photo: AFP

As well, a statement issued late yesterday afternoon said some members of the Asia Pacific Economic Forum - of which Russia is a member - condemned the war in Ukraine.

“There were other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions,” the statement read, adding that Apec was not the forum to resolve security issues.

Thailand is using the two days of meetings to push for a shift toward green industries and help rebuild the regional economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the Foreign Ministry was concerned that the gathering might not produce a joint statement, officials expressed relief yesterday that a consensus had been reached and posted the document on the ministry website, reports the Bangkok Post.

Several leaders gathered for the economic summit at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center broke away from their meeting yesterday to condemn North Korea after it test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The statement issued at the summit of leaders of 21 Asia-Pacific economies echoed one issued at the G20 meetings a few days earlier in Bali.

The Bali meeting also had its awkward moments given the presence of Russia’s foreign minister alongside the likes of US president Joe Biden. At Apec, Russia is being represented by Andrei Belousov, a first deputy prime minister.

In his remarks at the Bangkok gathering yesterday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha urged participants to seek sustainable growth and development after economic and social challenges from COVID, climate change and geopolitical rivalries.

“We can no longer live like we did. We need to adjust our perspective, ways of life and ways of doing business,” he said to an audience that included US Vice President Kamala Harris and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

French President Emmanuel Macron, a special guest at the summit, urged Apec leaders to re-embrace international rules and multilateralism for global peace and stability.

The Russian war in Ukraine was “an aggression against international rules”, he said, and countries should pursue inclusive, sustainable development to address inequality and instability.

“We have to reform the DNA of our economies. All have accepted capitalism and trade but we have to make it more inclusive and sustainable,” he said.

He also touched on security concerns and the US-China rivalry that both countries have been trying to downplay.

Ixina Thailand

“We are in the jungle and we have two big elephants, trying to become more and more nervous,” Macron said in his speech, which he gave in English.

“If they become very nervous and start war it will be a big problem for the rest of the jungle. You need cooperation of a lot of other animals: tigers, monkeys, and so on.”

Harris told Asian leaders that the United States is committed to the region for the long haul, dispelling doubts about Washington’s engagement as China expands its clout.

She called the United States a “proud Pacific power” and said the longstanding US network of security alliances has allowed Asia to prosper.

“The United States is here to stay,” Harris told business leaders on the sidelines of the Apec summit.

“Our message is clear: The United States has an enduring economic commitment to the Indo-Pacific, one that is measured not in years, but in decades and generations.”

But in a move likely to be seen by China as provocative, a US official said Harris would visit the Philippine islands of Palawan on the edge of the disputed South China Sea on Tuesday.

The trip will make Harris the highest-ranking US official to visit the island chain adjacent to the disputed Spratly Islands. China has dredged the sea floor to build harbours and airstrips on the Spratlys, parts of which are also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam

While the United States has taken a firm tone on China, some Asian officials have questioned the level of US economic engagement with the region.

President Biden has largely followed his predecessor Donald Trump in turning the page on the era of free-trade agreements, seeing them as unpopular among working-class US voters.

But Harris insisted that economic partnerships in Asia were “a top priority” for the Biden administration and pointed out that the US private sector invests around US$1 trillion a year in the region.

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