Asia-Pacific trade ministers begin meeting in Detroit amid war rift

Trade ministers from the Asia-Pacific region began a two-day meeting in Detroit on Thursday to discuss ways to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth, even as the rift over Russia’s war on Ukraine hampers efforts to boost regional cooperation.

The United States, chair of this year’s APEC forum, aims to compile a joint statement at the conclusion of the meeting of ministers from the 21 economies that form the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

The members include Russia and China, which are deepening their economic and security partnership amid increasing tensions with the United States, Japan and other countries. It remains unclear whether the ministers will find common ground on key issues.

“We will convey Japan’s opinions in discussions to build and maintain a free and fair trade and economic order,” Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said before attending the meeting.

APEC represents about half of global trade and 60 percent of the world economy. Its members also include Chile and Peru as well as Australia, Canada, South Korea and Taiwan.

In November last year, the APEC leaders managed to issue a leaders’ declaration at the summit in Bangkok stating that the war in Ukraine is “exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy.”

But the declaration also said, “There were other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions.”

The APEC transport ministers failed to issue a joint statement at their meeting held earlier this month due to differences over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

On the same day, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao met in Washington and had “candid and substantive discussions on issues relating to the U.S.-China commercial relationship,” the Commerce Department said.

The world’s two largest economies have been fiercely competing in the fields of advanced technologies and trade in particular.

Wang expressed key concerns at the meeting over Washington’s economic and trade policies including those on semiconductors and export controls, the Chinese Commerce Ministry said.

The two agreed to set up communication channels to maintain and strengthen exchanges on specific economic and trade concerns and issues concerning cooperation, the ministry added.