Asia Pacific Leaders to Address Trade and Sustainability in Bangkok – The Diplomat

War in Ukraine, great-power rivalry in Asia, inflation and food and energy shortages are on the agenda as leaders prepare for their third consecutive meeting this week, a Pacific Rim summit to be held at a closely guarded venue in Thailand. capital.

Leaders of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum formally meet behind closed doors on Friday and Saturday. For some, it will be at least the third such opportunity for face-to-face talks in the past two weeks, though the US is represented in Bangkok by Vice President Kamala Harris, who is attending in place of President Joe Biden.

APEC’s official mission is to promote regional economic integration. Most of the business on the sidelines of the summit takes place in meetings such as the planned meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

The two Asian powers have a history of strained relations, a legacy of Japan’s aggression in World War II exacerbated by territorial disputes and China’s growing military power. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning said the meeting “will be of great significance”.

Xi, Harris and French President Emmanuel Macron will also speak at a business conference held just before the summit meetings, which are often closed to the media except for outlets sponsoring the event.

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The APEC meetings are being held at the main convention center in downtown Bangkok, which is surrounded by some streets in the area completely closed to traffic. Rows of riot police stood behind barricades at a major intersection nearby, underlining host Thailand’s determination to ensure the summit was free of unrest.

“This year’s APEC meeting is taking place amid double peril. We need not be reminded of intense security conflicts that don’t know what victory looks like. Meanwhile, the world is staring at recession-related hyperinflation, broken supply chains, scarcity and climate disasters,” said Don Pramudwinay, Secretary of State. Thai at the opening meeting of foreign ministers and trade ministers who were working on draft statements due to be issued after the summit.

Referring to Russia and its recent condemnation of its war on Ukraine, he also said there is a growing “cancellation mentality” that makes “any compromise seem impossible”.

Ahead of the summit, Thai officials said they hoped to guide the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum toward long-term solutions in various areas, including climate change, economic turmoil, and a faltering recovery from the pandemic.

“What we will do is agree on a set of goals… mitigation of climate change, sustainable trade and investment, conservation of environmental resources, and of course waste management,” said Chirdchai Shivaived, Director General of the Department of Thailand. International economic affairs. This is the first time your father has spoken about this matter. This is the first time we open a new chapter in how we do trade, business and investment.”

APEC’s official mission is to promote regional economic integration, which means setting guidelines for the long-term development of a free trade area. Most of its work is technical and incremental, undertaken by senior officials and ministers, and covers areas such as trade, tourism, forestry, health, food, security, small and medium-sized enterprises, and women’s empowerment.

The leaders of the 21 economies on both sides of the Pacific often take the opportunity to hold bilateral talks and discuss side deals. The Latin American squad comes from Peru, Chile and Mexico. The other members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States, and Vietnam.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Biden are not attending this year. Putin has been avoiding international forums where he is being criticized for invading Ukraine. Biden will host his granddaughter’s wedding at the White House.

This makes Chinese President Xi the star attendee in Bangkok, where he is also on an official visit to Thailand after receiving a rare third term as a senior leader at a once-in-a-five-year Communist Party congress.

Biden gives China a ground in the competition for friends and influence in Southeast Asia by skipping the APEC meetings. But US officials say Washington has demonstrated its seriousness in relations with the region through frequent visits by cabinet members, including Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and other senior officials.

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As the host, Thailand invited three special guests to the meeting: French President Macron; Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who was due to represent the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, but will not attend after contracting COVID-19.

For Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, the most welcome visitor may be the Saudi leader, who is on an official visit to help restore friendly relations with Thailand after decades of turmoil over theft and unresolved Saudi royal jewels. Saudi diplomats killed in Bangkok.

“This is a good opportunity, because Mohammed bin Salman is visiting Thailand and the two countries will resume a good economic relationship after more than 30 years,” the head of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, Sanan Angopulkul, told the Associated Press. “The fact that the French president has joined us also shows how important this region is.”

The war in Ukraine remains a potential thorn in APEC’s consensus-oriented efforts. None of the previous APEC meetings this year issued statements due to disagreements over whether the conflict should be mentioned.

Like Indonesia, which hosted the G-20 summit in Bali this week, and Cambodia, which hosted the ASEAN meetings, Thai officials laid out the best they could about the situation, reasoning that agreement on other points would allow APEC to move forward regardless.

Skeptics doubt the meeting will accomplish much.

“This APEC forum is just a photo opportunity for the leaders. Its agenda has attracted much less attention than the ASEAN and G20 summits,” Virut Ali, a political science professor at Thailand’s Thammasat University, told The Associated Press.

I don’t think we will see any progress from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum. He said the current geopolitics, the trade war, COVID-19 and the war between Russia and Ukraine are the issues people pay more attention to and feel more impact from.

Associated Press journalists Grant Peck and Tasani Vjibongsa contributed to this report.

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