DANANG, Vietnam (Reuters) - 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.
A joint statement issued by 21 countries of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 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 Organization’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.
Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Ros Russell