APEC leaders agree to advance integration, work on economic recovery

Nov 13, 2021 – 01:31 KYODO NEWS

APEC signage on display during the APEC Informal Leaders’ Retreat at the Majestic Center on July 16, 2021 in Wellington, New Zealand. As chair of APEC 2021, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is hosting the informal APEC leaders’ retreat, conducted virtually. (Getty/Kyodo)

TOKYO – Leaders of 21 Pacific Rim economies including Japan, the United States and China agreed Friday to advance integration through free trade agreements as they seek to drive the post-coronavirus global recovery.

In a joint statement following a virtual summit, the leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum also vowed to work together to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and promote clean energy in order to achieve sustainable growth.

“We have demonstrated that trade and investment is a critical enabler for addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuring our economies recover stronger,” they said.

APEC members will “advance economic integration in a manner that is market-driven,” they added, voicing support for “ongoing efforts to conclude, ratify, implement and upgrade trade agreements in the region that benefit our people and our businesses.”

The meeting was held amid heightened tensions between China and Taiwan after both applied in September to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership. China opposes Taiwan’s application as it views the democratically self-governed island as a rogue province.

In an apparent dig at China, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the 11-member pact is “incompatible with unfair trade practices or economic coercion” and that Tokyo will cooperate with other members to uphold its “high standards of market access and rules,” according to the Foreign Ministry.

Meanwhile, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who hosted the APEC summit, told a press conference any country that meets the TPP’s high standards is welcome.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping were among the other participants in the meeting, which followed an informal APEC summit in July, also held virtually.

Expressing China’s eagerness to join the TPP, Xi said, “We need to practice true multilateralism, stick to dialogue rather than confrontation, inclusiveness rather than exclusion, and integration rather than decoupling,” according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Biden said the United States wants to serve as a “strong, reliable partner” for other APEC members, while discussing ways “to unleash the economic power of the region and to deepen U.S. economic engagement throughout the Indo-Pacific,” according to the White House.

In the joint statement, the leaders said they “support global efforts to share vaccines equitably and expand vaccine manufacture and supply,” including through the voluntary transfer of production technologies.

They also acknowledged the need for “urgent and concrete action” to address climate change and voiced appreciation for net zero or carbon neutrality commitments.

Biden said the climate crisis also presents an “enormous opportunity to create good jobs and that we must work together to move towards a sustainable future,” according to the White House.

Underscoring divisions within the forum, however, the leaders failed to agree on Washington’s bid to host APEC in 2023.

The joint statement also highlighted the importance of stable energy markets, with Kishida expressing concern about the global impact of surging crude oil prices, calling on producers to boost output, according to the Japanese ministry.

APEC groups Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida participates in a virtual summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum from Tokyo on Nov. 12, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Cabinet Public Relations Office)(Kyodo)

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