Global economic leaders from the Asia-Pacific region reaffirmed their commitment to global trade, including an endorsement of the World Trade Organisation that US President Donald Trump’s administration has sought to discredit.
The 21-member grouping of nations, which includes the US, voiced strong support for open trade and investment, and gave backing to the Geneva-based global trading body in a joint statement on Friday. Apec, established in 1989, is the pre-eminent economic forum in the Asia-Pacific region with China, Japan and Russia also members.
“We will cooperate to facilitate the movement of essential goods and services, as well as the essential movement of people in a safe manner, identifying and resolving unnecessary barriers to trade and strengthening the resilience of our supply chains,” the leaders said. “We recognise the importance of working together to ensure trade and investment can continue to flow in these trying times.”
The declaration comes as Trump winds down his four-year term in the White House. The outgoing US leader has been a thorn in the side of the WTO, calling for a fundamental reset at the institution and sabotaging its ability to settle disputes.
Trump most recently blocked the appointment of Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to be the body’s next director general. He has also blocked judicial appointments to the appellate body – citing concerns over judges overstepping their mandates – leading other WTO members to establish an alternative system run by arbitrators.
The statement, however, suggested broad-based support for the organisation’s work at the meeting, in which Trump participated.
“We will continue to support the on-going work at the WTO, including through its necessary reform aimed to improve its functioning, and will continue to work on appropriate capacity building initiatives to implement WTO agreements,” the leaders said.
Malaysia, this year’s host, organised a virtual meeting for leaders Friday. The next Apec meeting is scheduled to be held in New Zealand in 2021.
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