In this photo released by Malaysia Department of Information, a screen shows New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, left, and Microsoft President Brad Smith speak via virtual meeting during the APEC CEO Dialogues 2020, ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (Fandy Azlan/Malaysia Department of Information via AP)

Japan, New Zealand press for open markets to boost recovery


Leaders from Japan and New Zealand on Friday warned countries against the temptation of retreating into trade protectionism, saying that keeping markets open is the way to restore a global economy battered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking by video link from Tokyo to a meeting of Asia-Pacific CEOs, Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said a “free and open Indo-Pacific will be the cornerstone for the prosperity of this region."

Japan and 14 other Asian neighbors on Sunday signed the world’s largest free trade agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Suga, who took office in September, said Japan will next push for a wider free trade pact among the 21 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.

“Amidst a risk of inward-looking temptations in the face of the slump of the global economy, making rules for a free and fair global economy is critically important," he said. "While continuing to promote WTO reform, Japan will aspire for the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific.”

The event came ahead of a meeting late Friday of APEC leaders hosted by Malaysia that will be conducted via video conference due to the pandemic. Malaysian officials said U.S. President Donald Trump, who is busy challenging the outcome of the recent presidential election, will participate.

Trump last participated in the APEC forum in 2017 and last weekend skipped the East Asia Summits, also held online. Trump, or his representative, was initially due to speak to the CEOs Friday morning but that was canceled, with no reasons given.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who spoke to the CEOs after Suga, voiced hope that APEC leaders will agree at their meeting on new development goals for the next 20 years that focus on free trade, digital innovation, and sustainability and inclusion.

“As we confront this generation’s biggest economic challenge, we must not repeat the mistakes of history by retreating into protectionism. APEC must continue to commit to keeping markets open and trade flowing," she said.

As APEC chair for next year, Ardern urged APEC economies to work together to “reignite growth and plan for a long-lasting economic recovery" that is sustainable, inclusive and digitally enabled. New Zealand will also host APEC meetings virtually due to the pandemic.

APEC’s 21 member economies are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and the U.S.

© Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

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I really do enjoy how Cindy Ardern talks like a progressive and acts like a neo-liberal conservative. How long before her sycophantic followers wise-up. Japan of course are the exact opposite; free Trade is fine.... so long as all our major industries are protected with tariffs and subsidies.

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How long before her sycophantic followers wise-up.

Um, she's a compassionate, competent leader who just won an election by a landslide due to the immense popularity of her platform, proposals, and past action, unlike some Losers who are in positions of power, but have never held the confidence of the people whom they preside over.

But hey, don't let your far-right ideology let those pesky 'facts' and 'reality' get in the way of your rhetoric, right?

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I really do enjoy how Cindy Ardern talks like a progressive and acts like a neo-liberal conservative.

Done right I don't see any inherent conflict in advocating progressive social policies while also advocating for free markets. The problems with the capitalist societies do not necessarily stem from too much competition in the market but more often from too little. Advocating for competitive markets means advocating against oligopoly, monopoly, tariffs and subsidies as these all act to stifle competition and permit market power to be concentrated in fewer larger firms. Free trade improves the competitive environment.

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Here is the difficulty with “ free trade pacts” for all nation with China, south Korea and Japan.

the other country will really open its markets while China, south Korea and Japan SAY They will open their markets.

if you want a recent example, The EU Japan FTA. Tariffs on cars went down in Europe while cheese and wine has become even more expensive in Japan. That is because of other protective measures by Japan because otherwise the entire “ cheese” producers and wine producers in Japan would go Boom in a year.

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"Free Trade" is a misnomer - evidently.

It means China can export its spare capacity to trading partner countries whilst importing productivity from trading partner countries.

All the big box store operators, big corporates, luxury groups etcare get richer whilst workers getting poorer, because no matter how hard they work, they can't get a pay rise, because of a lack of productivity increases.

The recent RCEP free trade agreement specifically excluded provisions for labour, environment AND state subsidies, to please China.

The TPP MK2 is also poised to exclude labour, environmental and state subsidies provisions.

Workers outside China are stuffed! No matter how 'socialist' you think ms Ardern is.

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Free trade improves the competitive environment.

...heard that before but does it improve the lives of citizens?

NZ Hoki fish is a national treasure. It used to provide a comfortable income for thousands if NZ fisherfamilies, and many thousands more processing the fish. Then the government concentrated catch quotas into the hands of a handful of wealthy individuals/corporates, then processing jobs went to China, then all processing jobs went to China because of competition from those initial processing jobs that went to China.

Loose loose all round for the country. Win, win for the handful of elite politically powerful families.

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"While continuing to promote WTO reform, Japan will aspire for the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific.”

What kind of reform? The WTO already has rules against anti-competitive measures like 'state subsidies that it's not enforcing on countries like China.

The WTO is trying to get even more pro-China people on board.

RCEP enshrines in law (by allowing) state subsidies, forced (slave) labour, but is promoted in the main stream media as free trade.

Wake up!

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