18 Nov 2023

APEC summit wraps up with closed door meeting

10:16 am on 18 November 2023
New Zealand representative Damien O'Connor at the APEC summit

New Zealand representative Damien O'Connor at the APEC summit Photo: RNZ / Gyles Beckford

Leaders of the 21 APEC members wrap up their summit today with a closed door meeting to work out an agreed statement on key issues.

The United States has hosted the week long gathering in San Francisco, with Trade Minister Damien O'Connor flying the flag for New Zealand in the absence of a new government being in place.

Ahead of the retreat O'Connor had talked up the moves to improve action on making trade within the region smoother and easier, progress on decarbonisation, anti-corruption, and supply chain resilience.

The US has championed a new trading structure, the Indo Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), seen as a counter to China's economic and political influence in the region.

However, the Biden administration has stumbled in getting trade access into the IPEF structure for the time being with India objecting to provisions about trade access, and also getting push back from domestic politicians on its impact on US industries.

In opening remarks to the leaders' retreat Biden said among the challenges facing members was the need to get "inclusive growth", and action on climate change, while pushing the US's renewed commitment to the region through, trade investment, and expanded air links.

O'Connor declined to speculate the extent to which the Middle East and Ukraine conflicts would affect or even be represented in the final communique, but said he would be representing New Zealand's bi-partisan approach to such issues.

"There's not too many areas where I think there'll be a major shift in direction ... (we're) consulting through the caretaker period with anything that comes to APEC, but basically it's been consensus and consistent."

O'Connor said New Zealand aspirations for closer trade ties with India would be helped by IPEF, and broader progress on improved business and economic links in the APEC catchment would occur through improvements to the CPTPP free trade deal agreement improvements worked on the sidelines of the summit.

The APEC summit offered the chance for Biden and China's President Xi-Jinping to meet for the first time in a year, coming to agreements on restoring communication between their armed forces, action to crack down on drug manufacture, and moves to make use of artificial intelligence safer.

However, subsequent statements from both countries have highlighted that they will continue to fiercely compete for economic and political dominance in the region.

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