APEC leaders seek free and open trade to drive recovery from pandemic

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Leaders of 21 Pacific Rim countries have agreed on the need for continued free and open trade to boost economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, as they released their first joint statement in three years.

“We recognize the importance of a free, open, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent and predictable business and investment environment to spur economic recovery,” said leaders of Asia-Pacific economic cooperation, including the US president Donald Trump, in the press release. released Friday after their virtual summit.

The meeting took place for the first time since 2018 after last year’s rally was canceled due to political unrest in Chile, the expected host. In 2018, APEC leaders failed to agree on a joint statement due to a growing rift between the United States and China on trade and other issues.

As the novel coronavirus continues to rage around the world, APEC economies, covering 60% of the world’s gross domestic product, appear to have come together this year to show their determination to tackle the devastating effects of the COVID pandemic -19.

While pledging to deploy “all available policy tools” to strengthen the response to the epidemic, participants said in the statement: “We recognize the need to strengthen stimulus measures that facilitate economic recovery and the creation of jobs. ”

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The global economy is showing signs of recovery after plunging earlier in the year in economic activities stemming from the pandemic. But a recent surge in infections threatens to slow the recovery.

The leaders pledged to “facilitate the movement of essential goods and services, as well as the safe movement of people,” and urged APEC members to ensure that any emergency trade restrictions aimed at fight against the coronavirus complies with the World Trade Organization. rules.

They also affirmed their cooperation in the development of treatments and vaccines against COVID-19.

At the summit hosted by Malaysia, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga stressed that “the promotion of free trade and investment and increased connectivity based on international rules will support a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said a government official at a press briefing in Tokyo.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said the world’s second-largest economy “will positively consider” joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

The CPTPP is an 11-member free trade agreement that came into effect after Trump withdrew the United States in 2017 from what was originally the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a sweeping trade deal that aimed to counter China’s economic influence.

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Just days before the APEC summit, 15 Asia-Pacific countries, including Japan, China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, signed the Comprehensive Economic Partnership regional, a landmark agreement to create the world’s largest free trade bloc.

The development has come as Washington appears to have withdrawn from the region, as evidenced by Trump’s rejection of the TPP. The president has also been criticized by US allies in the Asia-Pacific for often snubbing key meetings in the region.

Trump’s participation at the APEC summit was unclear until the last minute, as his public appearances have been limited since he lost his reelection bid earlier this month and has apparently been busy to make efforts to reverse the results.

Trump attended the summit for the first time since 2017, the year he took office. He sent Vice President Mike Pence in his place in 2018.

At the APEC meeting, Trump pledged to promote “peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region through strong economic growth” and highlighted the “global health leadership of the United States”, including the recent successful development of COVID-19 vaccines, the White House said in a statement.

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Leaders also adopted the APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040, which replaced the Bogor Goals of 1994 by setting the goals of the forum to promote free trade and regional connectivity in the aftermath of a pandemic that has brought more 1.3 million deaths and devastated the global economy.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a lasting impact on how we view trade and economic priorities within APEC,” Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said in his opening speech.

“We need to trade and invest to get out of the current economic downturn. We must unite and work constructively to navigate the region on a path of strong, inclusive and sustainable economic recovery and growth, ”he said.

Founded in 1989, APEC is a platform for discussion on free trade and economic cooperation of the Pacific Rim countries covering 37% of the world’s population and 48% of world trade volume.

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

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