The US and others say the APEC withdrawal targeted Russia because of the invasion

The United States and four other countries that pulled out of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Bangkok over the weekend reiterated their support on Monday for host country Thailand, saying their protest was aimed only at Russia over its invasion. Ukraine.

US trade representative Catherine Taye and delegates from Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Canada withdrew from Saturday’s session for APEC. The meeting came at a time when Russian Economic Development Minister Maxim Reshetnikov was ready to make his opening remarks.

A statement on Monday from the five countries, also joined by South Korea and Chile, said they had “steadfast support for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation” and were “fully committed” to supporting Thailand as this year’s president. But they said they condemned “in the strongest terms the unjustified aggressive war of Russia against Ukraine”.

The 21-member APEC forum aims to promote economic integration and trade throughout the Asia-Pacific region. In their statement, the seven countries indicated that the humanitarian situation in Ukraine has not only deteriorated, but its effects are also beginning to appear in global energy and food prices..

“The rising level of food insecurity, due to the Russian invasion, is being felt worldwide, disproportionately by the most vulnerable,” they said in the statement provided by the US Embassy in Bangkok.

“Emphasizing the importance of the international rules-based order that supports an open, dynamic, resilient and peaceful Asia-Pacific region, we strongly urge Russia to immediately cease the use of force and fully and unconditionally withdraw all its military forces from Ukraine.”

Meanwhile, Reshetnikov said other APEC countries should view the broad sanctions against Russia as opportunities for themselves to expand their energy, food and other sectors.

It “provides opportunities … including the economy of Thailand, opportunities to come to the Russian market and fill the emptied niches,” Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency said. “Besides, it is also an opportunity for Russian companies, which are actively looking for new markets for their products.”

Deputy US Trade Representative Sara Bianchi, who took over as Deputy US Trade Representative from Tai at the APEC talks after Taye left Thailand to join President Joe Biden in Japan, told reporters in Bangkok on Monday that she could not determine whether the pullout was a one-time event or not. no. Or whether countries will avoid Russia at future meetings.

“Obviously at the moment we are very concerned about what is happening with Ukraine and the unprovoked attacks in the country, so we have to wait and see how all these issues turn out,” she said. “But we certainly wanted to make an important statement at this APEC meeting that this kind of work is not acceptable.”

The two-day meeting ended Sunday without a joint statement due to differences over Russia’s invasion of UkraineAccording to Japanese Trade Minister Koichi Hagiuda.

“There were big differences when coordinating the wording on Russia among member economies,” Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported.

In addition to Russia itself being part of APEC, members China and Vietnam abstained from voting in the UN General Assembly In March to condemn the Russian attack on Ukraine.

Reshetnikov told reporters after the meetings that 23 points out of 24 were agreed, “which means APEC is still able to advance the economic agenda” of the group, blaming those who pulled out for the lack of a joint final statement.

“The only reason we did not reach a consensus is the attempt of some economies to politicize the forum,” Russia’s TASS news agency reported. “Going forward, we must focus on finding common ground, not on stirring up disagreements.”

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Grant Beck contributed to this story.

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