BANGKOK: Trade ministers of the 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum member economies ended their two-day meeting in Bangkok on Sunday without adopting a joint statement.
During the APEC meeting, major Western countries including Japan and the United States came into a serious collision with Russia over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, and participants decided not to adopt a joint statement, which needs to be unanimously approved.
The latest development suggested that the APEC framework may have become dysfunctional, with member economies staying divided.
From Japan, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Koichi Hagiuda attended the APEC trade ministers’ meeting.
In a press conference held after the end of the two-day discussions, Hagiuda said he told his counterparts that Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine constitutes a clear violation of international law and can never be tolerated.
Hagiuda said he also called on APEC member economies to make utmost efforts to restore international order, noting that soaring resources and food prices are negatively affecting the global economy’s recovery. He gained support from the United States, Australia and other countries.
When Russian Economic Development Minister Maksim Reshetnikov made remarks during the first-day discussions, trade chiefs from five countries, including Hagiuda and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, staged a walkout in protest of the war in Ukraine.
While countries including Japan and the United States insisted on strongly criticizing Russia in a joint statement to wrap up the trade ministers’ meeting, Russia stood against such a move. No joint statement was put together as a result.
At the meeting, participants exchanged opinions on the importance of multilateral trade and discussed ways to restore the freedom of movement of people with the aim of reviving travel demand, which has been ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.