Pacific Rim nations unable to agree on open markets

Elaine Kurtenbach
Associated Press

Danang, Vietnam — Foreign and trade ministers of 21 Pacific Rim economies meeting in Danang, Vietnam, appeared to be struggling for a consensus on open markets and other strategic issues ahead of a regional summit.

A news conference planned for late Wednesday was canceled as the talks dragged on, and APEC officials said they would continue on Thursday. The ministers were due to endorse a draft of a statement their leaders in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum usually issue at the end of the annual summit.

The Vietnamese hosts urged those involved to work toward a compromise.

“I hope that we will seize this last opportunity before our leaders’ meeting to show flexibility and willingness needed to bridge the remaining gaps so that we can come out with a meaningful package for regional economic integration,” said Vietnamese Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh.

It was unclear if the U.S. pushback on “free trade,” evidenced in the “America first” policy of the administration of President Donald Trump stymied progress toward an agreement. Trump is to attend the summit, which begins Friday in the Vietnamese coastal resort city.

Vietnam is using the occasion to showcase the progress its economy has made thanks largely to opening to foreign investment and trade.

A year after Trump was elected U.S. president on a platform that rejected a Pacific Rim trade pact in favor of country-to-country deals and what he calls “fair” rather than free trade, other APEC members seem united in their support of multilateral efforts to set rules on trade and investment.

APEC’s members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the U.S. and Vietnam.