Apec ministers' meeting drags on due to different views on trade issues

Representing Singapore at the Apec ministerial meeting were Mr Lim Hng Kiang (far right) and Dr Maliki Osman (seen here greeting Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop).
Representing Singapore at the Apec ministerial meeting were Mr Lim Hng Kiang (far right) and Dr Maliki Osman (seen here greeting Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop).PHOTO: REUTERS

A meeting of Asia-Pacific trade and foreign ministers in Danang ended nearly 24 hours later than scheduled, due to a difference of views on trade and protectionism.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) ministerial meeting, which was supposed to have wrapped up on Wednesday evening, extended till yesterday.

Vietnam's Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh said: "There were diverse views, but we were able to conclude with a very good outcome, which reflects the interests of all Apec economies."

Negotiators from the United States were reportedly the ones who stalled, as they insisted on changes to some of the language used in a communique for Apec leaders ahead of their retreat tomorrow, officials at the closed-door meeting said.

Representing Singapore were Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang and Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Defence Maliki Osman.

A Bernama report yesterday cited Malaysia's International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed as saying there were differing opinions on protectionism and the balance of trade. "We used to speak in one voice before, opposing protectionism and supporting the multilateral trading system," he said. "Although it did not look tense, it's hard to get the consent of all members."

Mr Mustapa said the US did not want to use the word "protectionism" in the text, preferring "fair trade" instead. "We are aware of the current US administration's views. They have big issues with Japan and China as they argued that the trade surplus occurred due to the unfair world trading system. That is the dispute at the meeting this time around."

Lee U-Wen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2017, with the headline 'Apec ministers' meeting drags on due to different views on trade issues'. Print Edition | Subscribe