By David Lawder
DETROIT (Reuters) – Trade ministers from the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) countries agreed on Friday to promote more inclusive and sustainable trade, but failed to produce a joint statement due to Russia and China’s objections to language on Ukraine.
Closing out two days of talks in Detroit, the APEC host, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, instead issued a chair’s statement summarizing the discussions, with an emphasis on inclusiveness, fighting climate change and sustainability.
“We reaffirm our determination to deliver a free, open, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, inclusive and predictable trade and investment environment,” the statement read.
The group reaffirmed its commitment to the rules-based multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organization at its core. “We will continue to work to ensure a level playing field to foster a favorable trade and investment environment and reaffirm our commitment to keep markets open and to address supply chain disruptions,” it said.
APEC leaders last November in Bangkok approved language stating that “most members” strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and the resulting human suffering and economic impact.
But at the meeting in Detroit, China and Russia objected to including the language, leaving it to Tai’s chair’s statement, which noted there were differing views and that “APEC is not the forum to resolve security issues.”
Tai told a news conference that she hoped APEC leaders at a November summit in San Francisco would be able to produce a joint statement.
Tai used the Detroit meeting as a venue for pushing the Biden administration’s vision of a “worker-centered” trade policy to a broader international audience. She said she chose Detroit to showcase its history as a city hit hard by aggressive trade liberalization, but which has seen a rebirth and shift to new green transportation technology.
“I’m confident that APEC’s reputation as an incubator of ideas and a catalyst for cooperation can also benefit our work in driving a race to the top for workers throughout the region,” she said.
(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Leslie Adler)