Delegates from the United States and four other nations went on strike Saturday as a Russian representative began opening remarks at a meeting of trade ministers from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group in the Thai capital, officials said.
A Japanese official said Japan’s Trade Minister Koichi Hagiuda and his counterparts from the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada walked out of the meeting in Bangkok to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
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A statement from the office of New Zealand Minister for Trade and Export Growth Damien O’Connor said he stepped down “in protest at the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has slowed the region’s economic recovery from COVID and has made it difficult for people in the region to get food on their tables. He came out in good company.”
A spokeswoman for Canadian Trade Minister Mary Ng confirmed to Global News that the minister walked out of the annual meeting during Russia’s intervention.
“Canada has already taken many steps to hold Russia accountable for its devastating invasion of Ukraine, including harsh sanctions against Putin and those who enable him, but we must keep up the pressure,” the spokesman said.
A US official in Bangkok confirmed the strike but did not provide further details. He asked not to be identified. There is diplomatic sensitivity about talking about the incident because the process took place behind closed doors. US Trade Representative Katherine Tai represents Washington at the meeting.
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Thailand is this year’s host nation for the APEC meetings, which comprises 21 economies. The two-day trade ministers meeting ends on Sunday.
The strike occurred just as Maxim Reshetnikov, Russia’s economic development minister, was set to deliver his opening remarks, said a Southeast Asian diplomat, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.
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He said delegates from the five protesting nations and their staff walked out together in what clearly appeared to be a planned action, returning after Reshetnikov completed his remarks.
Western nations have imposed harsh diplomatic and economic sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, but many APEC member nations, especially in Southeast Asia and Latin America, have distanced themselves from such measures. The war in Ukraine has posed significant trade problems because it has disrupted supply chains, especially in the food sector.
APEC was launched in 1989 to fuel growth by promoting economic integration and trade among its members.
Associated Press writers Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo, Nick Perry in Wellington, New Zealand, and David Rising in Bangkok contributed to this report.
— With archives from Global News
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