APEC Trade Talks in Statement Wording Dispute, Russia Says

Updated on
  • One country disagrees with rest of APEC ministers: Oreshkin
  • Russia economy minister speaks in interview with Bloomberg

Asia-Pacific trade ministers meeting in Vietnam this weekend may fail to issue a joint statement amid a dispute over wording, according to Russian Economy Minister Maxim Oreshkin.

While not directly referring to the U.S., Oreshkin said one nation was at odds with others on the content. "There is a risk there will be no statement,” he said. Asked if the U.S. was the country opposing a strong statement against protectionism, he replied: “You can guess.”

Maxim Oreshkin

Photogrpaher: Yekaterina Shtukina\TASS via Getty Images

“It’s not only us, it’s everybody on this forum wants to get clarity on what the U.S. thinks about its trade policy,” he said Saturday in an interview at the meeting of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation ministers in Hanoi. “When there were talks about the memorandum of the forum, there were 20 countries that agree on everything and one country that has not agreed on anything.”

The comments suggest the APEC gathering will fall short of the action at recent Group of Seven and Group of 20 meetings of finance chiefs, where language about protectionism was watered down. That’s even as Oreshkin called protectionism the biggest threat to global growth.

The Russian minister said he had not approached the U.S. about meeting new Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in Hanoi, and had not in turn been approached by the U.S. side.

Asia Focus

"I was contacting more our Asian partners,” he said. “It’s more important to contact our Asian partners rather than the U.S.”

G-7 finance chiefs signed up this month to a pared-down pledge on global trade as President Donald Trump’s administration, which is seeking to renegotiate key trade agreements, continued to challenge prevailing economic doctrine.

The governments at a meeting in Italy said in a statement they are “working to strengthen the contribution of trade to our economies” -- a repetition of the language used at the G-20 gathering in March that fell short of an explicit promise to avoid protectionism.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin refused then to sign up to a well-established shunning of protectionism, and pressed for trade to be “fair” and “reciprocal.”

Philippine Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez -- who said he had not had a formal sit down so far with Lighthizer -- said he was not familiar with the planned wording of the ministerial statement. “I am not party to the preparation of the statement,” he said in an interview late Saturday.

“The interaction generally speaking, almost all would be talking about the area of deepening further, having more sustainable and deeper trade relations among the countries.”

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