Daily Management Review

As Geopolitical Rifts Disrupt Regional Summits, APEC Promises To Increase Trade


The final of three summits in the region this week, which have been overshadowed by intense geopolitical rivalry, was concluded on Saturday with commitments from the leaders of the 21-member APEC bloc to increase trade and do more to address other economic challenges.
Global leaders have participated in the summits, and the discussions have frequently been derailed by tension resulting from the conflict in Ukraine as well as other flashpoints like the Taiwan Strait and the Korean Peninsula.
While the Group of 20 (G20) major economies met on the Indonesian island of Bali, a summit for Southeast Asia featuring China, Japan, and the United States was held in Cambodia.
The U.S. delegation's vice president, Kamala Harris, called an urgent side meeting of allies on Friday to denounce North Korea after it tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the United States, disrupting the APEC meeting.
Prayuth Chan-ocha, the Thai prime minister and APEC chair, said APEC made "significant progress" on Saturday by agreeing to a multi-year work plan for a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP).
The APEC leaders acknowledged the need for more intensive efforts to address issues like rising inflation, food security, climate change, and natural disasters and pledged to uphold and further strengthen a multilateral trading system based on rules.
“This year, we have also witnessed the war in Ukraine further adversely impact the global economy,” said the declaration, which said most members strongly condemned the war.
At the G20 summit in Indonesia, participants unanimously approved a statement in which they expressed their opposition to the war in Ukraine, while acknowledging that some nations had different perspectives.
The APEC leaders referenced U.N. resolutions that condemn Russia's aggression and call for its complete and unconditional withdrawal from Ukraine, echoing the G20 declaration while also pointing out the diversity of views.
“There were other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions. Recognising that APEC is not the forum to resolve security issues, we acknowledge that security issues can have significant consequences for the global economy,” the bloc said.
Despite being a G20 and APEC member, Vladimir Putin has avoided attending summits. He is represented at APEC by Andrei Belousov, first deputy prime minister.
The following APEC summit will take place in San Francisco, California, and Vice President Harris received the chair from Prime Minister Prayuth during a ceremony.
“We are ready to conduct a seamless cooperation with them,” he said, while presenting Harris with a “chalom”, a woven bamboo basket used to carry goods and gifts in Thailand.
A day earlier, Harris convened an emergency meeting with the leaders of Australia, Japan, South Korea, Canada, and New Zealand following North Korea's missile test just one hour before the start of the APEC forum.
“This conduct by North Korea most recently is a brazen violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions,” Harris said.
After meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Monday in Bali, U.S. President Joe Biden said Beijing has a responsibility to try to persuade Pyongyang to cease nuclear testing, but added that it was unclear whether China would be able to influence Pyongyang. Friday's launch followed.
A White House official said that during their brief meeting on Saturday, Harris stressed the need to "maintain open lines of communication to responsibly manage the competition between our countries."
Relationships between the superpowers have deteriorated recently due to disagreements over the South China Sea and issues with tariffs, Taiwan, intellectual property, and the erosion of Hong Kong's autonomy.
After China's protracted period of COVID isolation, Xi attended both the G20 and APEC summits and held a flurry of bilateral meetings, signaling his return to the main stage of international diplomacy.
Xi said on Thursday that the Asia-Pacific was no one's backyard and should not turn into a scene of great power competition, issuing a warning against the resurgence of Cold War tensions in a region that is the focus of competition between Beijing and Washington.
“No attempt to wage a new Cold War will ever be allowed by the people or by our times,” he told a business event linked to the APEC summit.
The members of APEC, which was established to encourage economic integration, represent 48% of trade, 62% of global GDP, and 38% of the world's population.
Campaigners want to see leaders take action on problems like hunger, rising inflation, climate change, and human rights. As Thai pro-democracy protesters clashed with police on Friday, who retaliated by firing rubber bullets about 10 km (6 miles) from the central Bangkok summit venue, it served as a reminder of grassroots demands.