Recently, a meeting of trade ministers from the APEC nations ended without issuing a joint statement due to differences over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. According to details, the trade ministers of the forum met in Bangkok and discussed the promotion of economic growth in the post-COVID-19 world and agreed on the need to lower trade barriers among the member states. The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to realizing an APEC-wide free trade pact by 2040, despite the failure to find common ground over the war in Ukraine. During the session, the United States and Japan sought to include expressions denouncing Russia’s invasion in their joint statement, but Russia, China and other nations opposed the proposal. Whereas, America and allies walked out the speech of the Russian representative at the meeting.
Currently, the 21-member Asia-Pacific Community is facing a split between its member nations because of politicization of the trade and economic forum by the member countries, while the agenda of global free trade and economic integration of member economies was kept aside by the opposing groups. The APEC had conceived a vigorous manifesto for the bloc since its formation in 1989, but failed to implement its resolutions regarding free trade and economic investment among the member nations over the past decades, which clearly portrays ineffectiveness of the bloc. The forum again reiterated its resolve to achieve the goal of FTA among its member states by 2040 in the recent meeting, which was a major agenda item of the bloc annual meetup in 1994.
Besides, dispute over Russia invasion of Ukraine and broader US-Russia conflict, the forum also faces challenges from ongoing US-China trade war which proved to be a big hurdle in the promotion of cross-border trade and economic integration of the APEC economies. According to analysts, the political Rivalry between powerful member states has made the forum dysfunctional until APEC nations review their priorities vis-a-vis objectives of the bloc. In fact, the competitors had turned all venues into battlegrounds while space for frank discussion and diplomacy has reduced due to vain behaviors of the players.