PM welcomes joint APEC trade commitment

Andi Yu
·3-min read

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has welcomed a joint statement from Asia Pacific leaders calling for free and predictable trade for economic recovery out of the coronavirus pandemic.

Leaders of the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group, including US President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping, agreed they would not resort to protectionist policies.

The joint communique, after a virtual summit hosted on Friday by Malaysia, was made in the midst of ongoing trade tensions between the world's two largest economies.

"It was a very positive meeting," Mr Morrison told Australian reporters via video link from The Lodge on Saturday.

"People are very focused on vaccines and affordable early access of safe vaccines - not just in developed countries but in developing countries - and on the recovery, that trade will play such an important role in going forward."

The prime minister said he felt an undertaking from APEC nations to keep trade doors open had been "refreshed" during the meeting that ran until about 2.30am Canberra time.

"Part of that is making sure we all individually seek to engage with each other to deal with any issues as they arise - which is a point I made last night," Mr Morrison said.

In the communique, the leaders said they recognised "the importance of a free, open, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent and predictable trade and investment environment" to drive growth during the crisis.

APEC countries failed to reach agreement in 2018 because of discord over trade and investment between the United States and China, and last year's gathering in Chile was cancelled due to street protests.

Trump, who is yet to concede defeat in the November 3 US election and begin a transfer of government to president-elect Joe Biden, largely focused on domestic issues in his remarks at the meeting and spoke of the successes of his time in office, a source who heard his address said.

He last joined an APEC summit in 2017. He missed a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) last weekend, when 15 nations formed the world's largest free-trade bloc, the Regional Comprehensive Partnership Agreement (RCEP), cementing China's dominant role in regional trade.

Xi Jinping on Friday called for free and open trade and investment, and support for multilateralism.

He said China would "actively consider" signing up for a regional free-trade pact, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Trump pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, the predecessor to the CPTPP.

Other leaders who joined the virtual meeting included New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Mr Morrison is in quarantine at The Lodge in Canberra following his trip to Japan to meet with its new prime minister Mr Suga.

Mr Morrison is having a busy weekend of global talks, with the G20 summit, hosted by Saudi Arabia on Saturday and Sunday, and a meeting with European leaders.