By Noel Caballero
Bangkok, May 22 (EFE).- Trade ministers of the 21 nations making up the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum ended talks without issuing a statement on Sunday, a day after five countries boycotted the Russian minister’s speech.
In a press conference after the meeting, Thai commerce minister Jurin Laksanawisit said that there was an issue that had divided some of the participants, but avoided specifying what was behind the lack of consensus.
“Some issues have not been agreed upon by some members,” Laksanawisit said, adding he cannot reveal the content because it is part of an Apec “internal discussion.”
However, according to various sources from the attending delegations, a joint statement was not issued due to differences over Russia.
Maxim Reshetnikov, the Russian minister for economic development, said that “the only reason we have not achieved consensus is that some economies have tried to politicize the forum,” adding there was only disagreement in one of the 24 points of the final document, according to Russian state-owned news agency Sputnik.
The lack of consensus came after Australia, Canada, the United States, Japan and New Zealand walked out when Reshetnikov started his speech on Saturday.
Once his speech was over, the group returned to the meeting.
Russia has been boycotted at several international forums in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine.
In March, representatives of the US, the European Union and several other nations left the room when the Russian finance minister began to speak during the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Banks Governors meeting in Washington.
Thailand, a country that has not imposed sanctions against Russia and has remained neutral, “always respects the opinions of all economies” and defends the “multilateral system”, said Laksanawisit at the close of the two-day summit.
Laksanawisit, whose country is chairing Apec for 2022, tried to downplay the lack of a joint statement by pointing out that several previous occasions, such as in 2017 and 2018, had ended in the same way.
Despite the absence of a joint statement, the Thai minister said the meeting was a “resounding success” because all the economies had shown their willingness to work and promote the “establishment” of a huge free trade area in the Asia-Pacific region.
This was the first face-to-face Apec trade meeting to be held in three years because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The 21 economies that make up the forum discussed measures to ensure economy and investment recovery after the health crisis.
Other topics on this year’s agenda included food insecurity, high energy prices and tourism.
The Asia-Pacific region will experience a slowdown in its economic growth in 2022 to 3.2%, compared to the 5.9% registered in 2021. It will then slightly pick up again in 2023 with 3.4% growth, according to figures published by APEC on Friday.
The Apec leaders’ meeting is scheduled to take place in Bangkok between November 18 and 19, although it is unclear whether Russian president Vladimir Putin will attend.
Apec, founded in 1989, is made up of Australia, Brunei, Canada, China, Chile, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Russia, Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, and the United States, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. EFE