Maksim Oreshkin: Asia-Pacific trade ministers are in dispute over a joint statement


Asia-Pacific trade ministers meeting in Vietnam this weekend may fail to issue a joint statement amid a dispute over wording, according to Russian Economy Minister Maksim Oreshkin in an interview by Bloomberg at the meeting of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation ministers in Hanoi.

While not directly referring to the U.S., Oreshkin said one nation was at odds with others on the content. "There is a risk there will be no statement,” he said. Asked if the U.S. was the country opposing a strong statement against protectionism, he replied: “You can guess.”

“It’s not only us, it’s everybody on this forum wants to get clarity on what the U.S. thinks about its trade policy,” he said. “When there were talks about the memorandum of the forum, there were 20 countries that agree on everything and one country that has not agreed on anything.”

The comments suggest the APEC gathering will fall short of the action at recent Group of Seven and Group of 20 meetings of finance chiefs, where language about protectionism was watered down. That’s even as Oreshkin called protectionism the biggest threat to global growth.

The Russian minister said he had not approached the U.S. about meeting new Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in Hanoi, and had not in turn been approached by the U.S. side.

"I was contacting more our Asian partners,” he said. “It’s more important to contact our Asian partners rather than the U.S.”

G-7 finance chiefs signed up this month to a pared-down pledge on global trade as President Donald Trump’s administration, which is seeking to renegotiate key trade agreements, continued to challenge prevailing economic doctrine.

The governments at a meeting in Italy said in a statement they are “working to strengthen the contribution of trade to our economies” -- a repetition of the language used at the G-20 gathering in March that fell short of an explicit promise to avoid protectionism.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin refused then to sign up to a well-established shunning of protectionism, and pressed for trade to be “fair” and “reciprocal.”