Asia Pacific leaders make joint appeal for free and fair trade

(Reuters) – Asia Pacific leaders set aside differences on Friday with their first joint communique in three years, calling for free and predictable trade to help a global economy laid low by the coronavirus pandemic.

Leaders of the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), who included U.S. President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping, also said they would not resort to protectionist policies.

Their joint statement, after a virtual summit hosted by Malaysia, is set against a backdrop of ongoing trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

“The impact of (the U.S.-China) trade war has been eclipsed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin told reporters after the meeting.

“APEC has also pledged to refrain from backtracking and resorting to protectionist measures to keep markets and borders open,” he 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, after talks were stymied by discord over trade and investment between the United States and China, and last year’s gathering in Chile was cancelled due to violent street protests.

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