Asia-Pacific leaders yesterday called for open and multilateral trade to support a global economy battered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), among the leaders at a virtual meeting of the 21-member APEC forum, rejected protectionism and said that globalization was “irreversible.”
“We will not reverse course or run against historical trend by ‘decoupling’ or forming a small circle to keep others out,” Xi said at a forum ahead of the APEC leaders meeting to be held virtually in Kuala Lumpur today.
“China will remain committed to openness and cooperation, and adhere to multilateralism and the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits,” he said.
Xi said that “mounting unilateralism, protectionism and bullying, as well as backlash against economic globalization” had added to risks and uncertainties in the world economy.
The APEC leaders’ meeting comes as economies are trying to recover from the impact of the pandemic.
US President Donald Trump was due to represent the US at the virtual summit today, a US official said.
It would be the first time he has joined an APEC summit since 2017, the only time he has participated.
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (李顯龍) told the APEC forum that he expected “more multilateralists” in the administration of US president-elect Joe Biden.
“I think that they will be more supportive of the WTO, and of APEC. I am not sure that they will be more keen on throwing the doors wide open, or joining the CPTPP, because that depends on domestic politics too,” he said, referring to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Lee also said that US trade policies under Trump had weighed on APEC’s progress in the past few years, which he termed “very slow.”
“Also, they have not been supportive of trade as a win-win proposition,” Lee said.
“The attitude of the Trump administration is that this is a win-lose proposition,” he said.
Trump withdrew the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership in 2017, which has since changed its name to the CPTPP.
The US is also absent from the world’s largest free-trade bloc, the Regional Comprehensive Partnership Agreement (RCEP) — a 15-nation pact backed by China that was signed last week.
At the previous APEC meeting in 2018, the countries failed to agree on a joint communique, the first time in the bloc’s history, as the US and China stood at opposing ends of talks on trade and investments.
Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyidin Yassin said that APEC countries were working on a “post-2020” vision, and that free and multilateral trade was integral to economic recovery.
“This is essential for our businesses as market stability and predictability are the central pillars which ensure that trade and investment continue to flow, even during times of crisis,” Yassin said.
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