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Asia-Pacific leaders push for freer trade after Trump

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaks at the CEO Dialogue Forum of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) via video link yesterday. (AP photo)

Kuala Lumpur: On Thursday, leaders of Asia and the Pacific called for open and multilateral trade to support the global economy affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, and some hope for more engagement with the United States under the Biden administration.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, among the leaders at a hypothetical meeting of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, said globalization was “irreversible,” the day before US President Donald Trump was expected to join the gathering. .

“We will not reverse the course or go against the historical trend by ‘separating’ or forming a small circle to alienate others,” Xi said at a forum ahead of the APEC leaders meeting which will actually be held in Kuala Lumpur on Friday.

China will remain committed to openness and cooperation, and adhere to multilateralism, the principle of intensive consultation, common contribution and mutual benefits.

Xi said that “increasing unilateralism, protectionism and bullying as well as backlash against economic globalization” has increased risks and uncertainties in the global economy.

Trump introduced protectionist trade policies after he came to power in 2017, including tariffs on billions of dollars in Chinese products, which led to a trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

The APEC leaders meeting comes two weeks after Trump lost his bid for a second term.

A U.S. official said Trump, who has yet to step down and begin transferring the government to President-elect Biden, was scheduled to represent the United States at the virtual summit on Friday. The only time he joined the APEC summit was in 2017.

Biden referred to the return of the pluralism sought during Barack Obama’s presidency, although questions persist over whether the new president will reverse Trump-era policies.

‘More supportive’

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at the APEC Forum that I expect “more multilateral actors” in the Biden administration with more support for the bloc and the World Trade Organization.

“I’m not sure they’d be more keen to open the doors wide, or join CPTPP, because that depends on local politics too,” he said, referring to the successor to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. .

He also told me that US trade policies under Trump had caused a “very slow” advance in APEC.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Biden said the right things about positioning “the very current United States” dealing with multilateralism, climate change and other global issues.

Trump’s “America first” approach saw the United States withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership in 2017. It has since changed its name to Comprehensive and Advance Pacific Partnership Agreement (CPTPP).

The United States is also absent from the world’s largest free trade conglomerate, the Comprehensive Regional Partnership Agreement (RCEP) – an agreement of 15 countries backed by China that was signed last week.

Trudeau said Canada is closely monitoring the RCEP agreement, which he said will be a game-changer in Asia, to see how China behaves as part of the trade deal.

He also reiterated Canada’s disappointment with China that it has detained two of its citizens after the chief financial officer of Huawei was arrested in Canada by order of the United States nearly two years ago. And he called on countries to stand against “China’s coercive diplomacy.”

Friday’s APEC meeting will be the first in two years after last year’s summit in Chile was canceled due to violent protests.

At the last meeting in 2018, the countries failed to agree on a joint statement, the first time in the bloc’s history that the United States and China stood on opposite sides of trade and investment talks.

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