World

Asia Pacific leaders push for multilateral trade post-Trump

KUALA LUMPUR: Asia-Pacific leaders yesterday called for open and multilateral trade to support a global economy battered by the coronavirus, and some hoped for more engagement with the US under a Joe Biden administration.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, among the leaders at a virtual meeting of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum, rejected protectionism and said globalisation was "irreversible", a day before US President Donald Trump was expected to join in the gathering.

"We will not reverse course or run against historical trend by 'decoupling' or forming a small circle to keep others out," Mr Xi said at a forum ahead of the Apec leaders meeting to be held virtually in Kuala Lumpur today.

"China will remain committed to openness and cooperation, and adhere to multilateralism and the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits," he said.

Mr Xi said "mounting unilateralism, protectionism and bullying as well as backlash against economic globalisation" had added to risks and uncertainties in the world economy.

Mr Trump has introduced protectionist trade policies since coming to power in 2017, including tariffs on billions of dollars worth of Chinese products that launched a trade war between the world's two largest economies.

The Apec leaders' meeting comes as economies are trying to recover from the impact of the pandemic and days after Mr Trump lost his bid for a second term.

Mr Biden has signalled a return to multilateralism pursued during Mr Barack Obama's presidency, though questions remain over whether the new president would reverse Trump-era policies.

Mr Trump's "America First" approach saw the US withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement in 2017. It has since changed its name to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The US is also absent from the world's largest free-trade bloc, the Regional Comprehensive Partnership Agreement - a 15-nation pact backed by China that was signed last week.

At the last Apec meeting in 2018, the countries failed to agree on a joint communique, the first time in the bloc's history, as the US and China stood at opposing ends of talks on trade and investments. - REUTERS

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