Trade envoy signals Canada will protest Russian war at Apec, other summits

Trade envoy signals Canada will protest Russian war at Apec, other summits

Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit speaks at the opening ceremony of the trade ministers meeting of the  Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Bangkok on Saturday. (Reuters photo)
Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit speaks at the opening ceremony of the trade ministers meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Bangkok on Saturday. (Reuters photo)

SINGAPORE: Canadian Trade Minister Mary Ng signalled on Wednesday that the country may continue to protest the war in Ukraine at multilateral summits involving Russian officials after doing so in Bangkok over the weekend.

Ng, along with trade officials from several countries including the United States, Japan, Australia and New Zealand walked out of the meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) trade ministers in Bangkok on Saturday as Russian Economic Development Minister Maksim Reshetnikovspoke. The group later issued a statement expressing “grave concern” over Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine.

Asked during an interview in Singapore whether countries would consider doing the same when leaders arrive in Indonesia and Thailand later this year for G-20 and Apec summits, she said “Canada will continue to stand up and put pressure on Russia, and we will work with our allies and countries to do that.”

“Standing together to reject Russia’s blatant disregard for the rules, and its heinous behaviour against Ukraine was what Canada was doing along with its like-minded partners and I urge others who wish to join us to do that,” she said. “I have an important message for my colleagues, which is to urge them to join me in standing up for a rules based trading system.”

Rising tensions between Russia and western nations over the war have raised concerns in Asia that nations may miss opportunities to expand multilateral mechanisms including trade at a time when the world is emerging from the pandemic.

The 21-member Apec bloc in Bangkok was unable to issue a joint communique over the weekend because of differences among some in the group, Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit said in a statement on Sunday. Instead, the member economies authorised Thailand to make a statement of the chair, he said. Russia meanwhile blamed some Apec members for politicising the event, Tass reported.

Indo-Pacific Economic Framework

Canada’s Ng was also silent on whether the nation would consider joining the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), a sweeping economic initiative the Biden administration announced this week with a dozen Indo-Pacific countries.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last year sketched out his government’s third-term agenda, which included continuing to work with key allies on global issues, with a focus on deepening partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region. 

Altogether the nations involved in the IPEF constitute roughly 40% of global gross domestic product, and the push is the most significant US effort to engage Asia on economic matters since former president Donald Trump in 2017 withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Sunday said the 13 founding countries would develop criteria for other members, potentially including China, to join. 

“We’re at different starting points,” Ng said, adding Canada already has deep economic ties with several participating countries, including as a member of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. There’s “deep complementarity here, but of course we’ll do whatever makes sense for Canada.”

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