DANANG, Vietnam. Asia-Pacific
leaders agreed on Saturday to address "unfair trade practices" and "market distorting subsidies" in a statement that bore the imprint of U.S. President Donald Trump's efforts to reshape the global trade landscape.
The summit of Asia-Pacific
Economic Cooperation (APEC) countries in Vietnam
has put on show the contrasting vision of Trump's "America First" policy with the traditional consensus favouring multinational deals that China
now seeks to champion.
On the sidelines of the APEC summit, 11 countries kept alive a Trans Pacific trade
deal whose future has been in doubt since Trump withdrew from it early this year in the name of protecting Americn jobs.
A joint statement issued by the 21 APEC countries contrasted sharply with the group's communique from last year.
"We will work together to make trade more inclusive, support improved market access opportunities, and address unfair trade practices", the statement read. "We urgently call for the removal of market-distorting subsidies and other types of support by governments and related entities."
The comments echoed Trump's own themes in an address in the resort city of Danang. The satement also emphasised on the importance of bilateral trade deals alongside bigger agreements and a call to improve the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The 2016 statement was not critical of the WTO.
Trump says that the United States has lost out because other countries do not play by the rules, using state subsidies and measures that distort trade to the extent that Asian countries have built huge trade surpluses - China's the biggest of all.
Earlier in the week, trade and foreign ministers wrangled over the language to be used in APEC statements. Officials said the 20 other countries had been pitted against a U.S. push to change the traditional wording.
Those countries still managed to ensure references to pushing for free trade
and fighting protectionism - core reasons for APEC's founding in 1989 - made it into the final statement.
TRANS PACIFIC DEAL LIVES
In a boost for the principle of multilateral trade pacts, countries in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal agreed on the core elements to move ahead without the United States.
Japanese Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi
said he hoped that moving ahead with the deal would be a step towards bringing back the United States.
Partly to counter China's growing dominance in Asia, Japan
had been lobbying hard for the TPP
pact, which aims to eliminate tariffs on industrial and farm products across the 11-nation bloc whose trade totalled $356 billion last year.
Some 20 provisions of the original agreement were suspended. Those included some related to protecting labour rights and the environment, although most were related to intellectual property - one of the main sticking points after the U.S. withdrawal.
Canada, which has the second-biggest economy among remaining TPP
countries after Japan, had said it wanted to ensure an agreement that would protect jobs.
Chinese President Xi Jinping
said APEC members needed to remain true to the group's founding purposes, which included advancing trade, liberalisation and strengthening the multilateral trade regime, China's Xinhua news
He spoke in favour of an ambitious free trade
area that covers the entire region.
"We need to take determined steps toward a Free Trade
Area of the Asia-Pacific
in line with the agreed roadmap, and herald a new round of development in the Asia-Pacific
in the course of opening up," he said.