The two-day meeting of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation ministers responsible for trade concluded in Detroit this afternoon without agreement on a joint statement.
Support was unanimous among the 21 APEC ministers on the bulk of the language contained in the statement, but China and Russia refused to sign on to a paragraph condemning Russia’s war in Ukraine.
US Trade Representative Katherine Tai – who hosted the meeting – told reporters following the meeting that it is possible a joint statement could be agreed to at the APEC leaders meeting this November in San Francisco.
Ms. Tai will remain in Detroit overnight, where she will host a ministerial meeting under the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework tomorrow.
Today, on the sidelines of the APEC meeting, Ms. Tai had a bilateral sit down with Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao. At that meeting, Ms. Tai “highlighted the need to address the critical imbalances caused by China’s state-led, non-market approach to the economy and trade policy,” according to a readout from her office. “She also raised concerns about PRC actions taken against US companies operating there.”
At her closing press conference, Ms. Tai declined to elaborate on the meeting beyond the readout. But she stressed the need for continued open lines of communication between Washington and Beijing.
The MRT meeting was chaired by Ambassador Katherine Tai, and was attended by representatives from World Trade Organization (WTO), APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC), and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The attendees affirmed their commitment to the APEC 2023 theme of “Creating a Resilient and Sustainable Future for All,” and discussed the vital role APEC plays in advancing sustainable and inclusive trade in the Asia-Pacific region. They pledged to strengthen the rules-based multilateral trading system, with the WTO at its core, and to address supply chain disruptions.
A key concern discussed was the ongoing war in Ukraine and its adverse effects on the global economy, including increased inflation, supply chain disruptions, energy and food insecurity, and financial stability risks. Russia and China refused to endorse a statement upholding positions previously expressed in the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly.
The ministers agreed to continue their support for necessary reform to improve all of WTO’s functions. They underscored their commitment to promoting sustainable agricultural production, food systems, and minimizing disruptions to address food insecurity and climate challenges.
The meeting highlighted the role of digital technology and innovation in advancing inclusive and sustainable growth. The ministers reaffirmed their call to accelerate the implementation of the APEC Internet and Digital Economy Roadmap and to facilitate e-commerce and digital trade.
Inclusivity was a recurring theme, with the ministers committed to ensuring that the benefits of trade and investment extend to all, including women, Indigenous Peoples, persons with disabilities, and people from rural and remote areas. They also stressed the importance of stakeholder engagement in developing trade policies and agreements.
The meeting underscored the need for economic integration in the region, backed by the work on the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) agenda. They also acknowledged the benefits of Good Regulatory Practices (GRP) in creating a more transparent and predictable regulatory environment.