Vietnam's president hosts press conference after APEC leaders retreat concludes

By VnExpress, Reuters   November 11, 2017 | 09:17 am GMT+7

A joint statement issued by 21 APEC economies following their meeting in Vietnam showed the influence of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Asia-Pacific leaders on Saturday 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.

Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang said the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit has "concluded successfully."

A joint statement issued by 21 APEC economies following their meeting in Vietnam showed the influence of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has vowed to rewrite trade pacts he sees as unfavorable 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 U.S. 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.

vietnams-president-hosts-press-conference-after-apec-leaders-retreat-concludes

The round table where the 21 leaders of the APEC economies are sitting together. Photo by VnExpress/Quoc Doan

"Even so, the world economy has still improved. The fourth industrial revolution has offered unprecedented opportunities for development and innovation. Global agreements, especially the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, are of historical significance and long-term orientations for international cooperation and sustainable development," Quang said.

"This context requires the APEC Forum to affirm and promote its pioneering role in finding new impetus for growth, trade, investment, and connectivity as well as ways for people to enjoy equal benefits from globalization and economic linkages, contributing to building a peaceful, stable, dynamic, connected, and prosperous Asia-Pacific." 

The first two retreat sessions before the working luncheon will discuss creative growth, inclusive growth and decent work.

vietnams-president-hosts-press-conference-after-apec-leaders-retreat-concludes-1

Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang (R) shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump at the retreat session on Saturday. Photo by VnExpress/Ha Trung

Also on Saturday, Ministers from Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) countries released a joint statement, three days later than planned because of wrangling over traditional language that the United States wanted to change.

The statement still refers to free and open trade, to fighting protectionism and to recognizing the world of the World Trade Organisation, but it also refers to fair trade and to members "improving adherence to rules agreed upon."

The statement from the APEC foreign and trade ministers had originally been due on Wednesday from the talks in the Vietnamese resort of Da Nang.

APEC leaders who meet on Saturday are due to release a separate communique.

U.S. President Donald Trump has taken a strongly different stance on trade to predecessors with an emphasis on an "America First" policy that he says will protect American jobs and mean other countries do not take advantage of the United States.

Trump drove home those points in a speech at the APEC meetings on Friday.

The discussion over the statement in Da Nang has been similar to that which took place at G-20 meetings where the Trump administration demanded changes to the usual language.