BANGKOK (Kyodo) -- Representatives of five economies, including Japan and the U.S., walked out of a meeting by trade ministers from the Asia-Pacific region on Saturday, the opening day of a two-day conference in Bangkok, in protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Japanese officials said.
The meeting by the 21 economies forming the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum is underway with the promotion of trade and investment in the post-COVID-19 era, especially pathways to a free trade area in the region, high on the agenda.
Ministers from Japan, the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand exited the room when Maksim Reshetnikov, Russia's economic development minister, started delivering his remarks during a morning session, according to the officials. It was the first APEC trade ministers' meeting held in person in three years, as restrictions associated with the coronavirus pandemic have eased.
"We hope that the outcome of this year's APEC trade ministers' meeting will play an important role in helping to determine the policy direction for the recovery and stimulation of regional economic growth in various areas in ... post-COVID-19," Thai Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit said in the opening remarks.
The government of Thailand serves as the host and chair of this year's APEC meetings.
On the sidelines of the APEC trade meeting, Japan's Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Koichi Hagiuda is set to hold bilateral talks with ministers including from Thailand on a range of issues including the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.
The framework, called IPEF, aims to encourage openness while enhancing prosperity and building the resilience of the region, according to the U.S. government.
Its launch is expected to be formally announced during U.S. President Joe Biden's trip to Japan, in which he will hold talks with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Monday.
"We would like to welcome IPEF, as it will be a framework to strengthen the U.S. involvement in the Indo-Pacific region," Hagiuda told reporters in Tokyo before leaving for the Thai capital.
Other issues on the agenda include food insecurity, high energy prices and the resumption of tourism.
Founded in 1989, APEC operates on the basis of nonbinding and consensus-based cooperation to discuss free trade and economic cooperation by the Asia-Pacific region.
APEC members account for about 60% of the world's total gross domestic product and about 50% of global trade.
The APEC leaders' meeting this year is planned to be held in person in November in Bangkok.
APEC groups Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the U.S. and Vietnam.