World

No full joint statement at Apec meeting

HANOI: In a stormy first foray abroad for Mr Robert Lighthizer, the new US Trade Representative disagreed over protectionism with Asian and Pacific countries that look sceptically at the Trump administration's "fair trade" agenda.

With the United States on one side and the 20 other members of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum on the other at a meeting in Vietnam, a planned joint statement had to be scrapped because of these differences.

In a discussion draft of the proposed document, seen by Reuters, US officials opposed a reference to "protectionist trends that could have strong impacts on the process of global economic recovery and economic integration".

But they wanted to include a reference to "unfair trade practices that result in unbalanced trade" and another calling for the removal of barriers that distort trade to ensure that it is "both free and fair".

In the end, there was no full joint statement on Sunday. Instead, there was one statement from the Vietnamese chairman of the talks, Trade Minister Tran Tuan Anh, and a separate joint "Actions Statement".

The minister said there had been "some differences of opinion".

The statement from the chairman was based on the one the group had discussed earlier, but largely ignored changes proposed by the United States and instead included a reference to a "fight against all forms of protectionism".

"We would not agree to the chair's language, and we were successful in including language in the chair's statement to make clear that there was not consensus," a US official said. "We did agree to the ministers' actions statement and held numerous bilateral meetings that built goodwill among our trading partners."

The wrangling over the wording was similar to what has been seen at gatherings of Group of 20 and Group of Seven financial leaders, where statements were toned down to fit with the new US agenda. - REUTERS

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