Delegates from the United States, Canada and three other countries staged a walkout on Saturday when a Russian representative began his opening speech at a meeting of trade ministers from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group. in the Thai capital, officials said.
A Japanese official said Japanese Trade Minister Koichi Hagiuda and his counterparts from the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand left the meeting in Bangkok to protest the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media.
A statement from the office of New Zealand’s Minister for Trade and Export Growth, Damien O’Connor, said he had come out ‘in protest at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has slowed recovery economy in the region post-COVID-19 and made it harder for locals to get food on their tables. He came out in good company.
A US official in Bangkok confirmed the walkout but did not provide further details. He asked not to be identified. There is a diplomatic sensitivity to speaking about the incident because the proceedings took place behind closed doors. US Trade Representative Katherine Tai is representing Washington at the meeting.
“We must keep the pressure on” Russia
International Trade Minister Mary Ng is Canada’s representative at the talks, and a media spokeswoman confirmed she was one of the delegates who withdrew.
“Canada has already taken many steps to hold Russia accountable for its devastating invasion of Ukraine, including tough sanctions against [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and those who allow it, but we have to keep the pressure on,” Ng’s spokesperson Alice Hansen told CBC News.
Thailand is this year’s host country for meetings of APEC, which includes 21 economies. The two-day meeting of trade ministers ends on Sunday.
The walkout came just as Maxim Reshetnikov, Russia’s economic development minister, was due to deliver his opening speech, a Southeast Asian diplomat said, also speaking on condition of anonymity.
The delegates then returned
He said delegates from the five protesting nations and their staff walked out together in what clearly appeared to be a planned action and returned after Reshetnikov finished his remarks.
Western nations have imposed harsh diplomatic and economic sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, but many APEC member countries, especially in Southeast Asia and Latin America, have walked away such measures. The war in Ukraine has raised major trade issues as it has disrupted supply chains, especially in the food sector.
APEC was launched in 1989 to stimulate growth by promoting economic integration and trade among its members.