Apec leaders agree to address 'unfair trade practices'

Leaders pose for the "family photo" during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) leaders' summit in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on Nov 11, 2017.
(From left) Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull; Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolki
Leaders pose for the "family photo" during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) leaders' summit in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on Nov 11, 2017. (From left) Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull; Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah; Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam; Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski; Chile's President Michelle Bachelet; Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte; China's President Xi Jinping; Russia President Vladimir Putin; Vietnam's President Tran Dai Quang; US President Donald Trump; Indonesia's President Joko Widodo; Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha; Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong; South Korea's President Moon Jae In; New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern; Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak; Taiwan's representative James Soong and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto.PHOTO: AFP

DANANG, VIETNAM (REUTERS) - Asia-Pacific leaders on Saturday (Nov 11) agreed to address “unfair trade practices” and urgently called for the removal of “market distorting subsidies”, in contrast to communiques they have issued in the past.

A joint statement issued by 21 countries of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) following their meeting in Vietnam showed the influence of US President Donald Trump, who has vowed to rewrite trade pacts he sees as unfavourable to the United States.

“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.”

In the statement, the leaders also agreed on the need to improve the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) “negotiating, monitoring and dispute settlement functions”.

The 2016 statement was not critical of WTO.

Also in contrast to last year’s statement which made no mention of bilateral trade, the leaders noted the “importance of bilateral, regional and plurilateral agreements.”

The change in the trade language shows the influence of Trump’s “America First” policy. Trump has said he prefers to do bilateral trade deals, and in one of his first acts as President pulled the United States out of the ambitious Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact. 

Ahead of his trip to Asia, Trump last week called the US trade deficit with China “embarrassing” and “horrible”.

A separate joint statement was issued by Apec ministers earlier on Saturday - three days later than planned because of wrangling over traditional language that the United States wanted to change.