APEC leaders pledge stronger trade system

Leaders of the 21-member APEC bloc have pledged to boost trade and do more to tackle other economic challenges, wrapping up the last of three summits in the region in a week that have been overshadowed by intense geopolitical rivalry.

The summits have been attended by global leaders and the talks have often been disrupted by friction spilling over from the war in Ukraine and flashpoints such as the Taiwan strait and the Korean peninsula.

A Southeast Asian summit that included China, Japan and the United States was held in Cambodia, while the Group of 20 (G20) major economies met on the Indonesian island of Bali.

The APEC meeting was interrupted on Friday when US Vice President Kamala Harris, who is heading the US delegation, called an emergency gathering of allies on the sidelines to condemn North Korea after it test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the US.

On Saturday, Thai Prime Minister and APEC chair Prayuth Chan-ocha sought to bring the focus back to economic issues and said APEC made "significant progress" by agreeing a multi-year work plan for a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP).

An APEC leaders' declaration said the group would uphold and further strengthen a rules-based multilateral trading system but also recognised more intensive efforts were needed to address challenges such as rising inflation, food security, climate change and natural disasters.

"This year, we have also witnessed the war in Ukraine further adversely impact the global economy," said the declaration, which said most members strongly condemned the war.

At the G20 meeting in Indonesia, members unanimously adopted a declaration that said most members condemned the Ukraine war but also acknowledged some countries saw the conflict differently.

The APEC leaders echoed the G20 declaration as they referred to United Nations resolutions that deplore Russia's aggression and demand its complete and unconditional withdrawal from Ukraine but also noted a variety of opinions.

"There were other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions. Recognising that APEC is not the forum to resolve security issues, we acknowledge that security issues can have significant consequences for the global economy," the bloc said.

Russia is a member of both G20 and APEC but President Vladimir Putin has stayed away from the summits, with First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov representing him at APEC.

North Korea's missile test a day earlier, just an hour before the APEC forum was inaugurated, prompted Harris to call an emergency meeting with leaders from Australia, Japan, South Korea, Canada and New Zealand.

"This conduct by North Korea most recently is a brazen violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions," Harris said.

Friday's launch came after US President Joe Biden met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Monday in Bali and said Beijing has an obligation to try to talk North Korea out of resuming nuclear testing.

Harris briefly met Xi on Saturday, a White House official said, adding that she had emphasised the importance of maintaining "open lines of communication to responsibly manage the competition between our countries".

Ties between the superpowers have been strained in recent years over issues such as tariffs, Taiwan, intellectual property, the erosion of Hong Kong's autonomy and disputes over the South China Sea.

Xi attended both the G20 and APEC summits and held a flurry of bilateral meetings.

Set up to promote economic integration, APEC's members account for 38 per cent of the global population, 62 per cent of gross domestic product and 48 per cent of trade.