A meeting of trade ministers from the Asia-Pacific region ended Sunday without issuing a joint statement due to differences over Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Japan's trade minister Koichi Hagiuda said the outcome of the two-day Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum meeting in Bangkok, which focused on how to promote economic growth in a post-COVID-19 world, should be reflected in a chairman's statement.
Thai Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit, who chaired their discussions, told a press conference that they agreed on the need to lower trade barriers and reaffirmed their commitment to realizing an APEC-wide free trade pact by 2040, despite the failure to find common ground over the war in Ukraine.
Japan and the United States had sought to include expressions denouncing Russia's invasion in their joint statement, but others, including Russia, opposed it, according to officials.
"There were big differences when coordinating the wording over Russia among the member economies," said Hagiuda, who condemned the invasion as a violation of international law during the meeting.
In protest against the invasion continuing for almost three months, the top representatives of five economies -- Japan, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States -- walked out when Maksim Reshetnikov, Russia's economic development minister, delivered his remarks during the meeting.
Some members besides those five also indirectly criticized Russia by saying the war has led to soaring energy prices, according to Hagiuda.
Ministers of 21 nations, including the world's three largest economies -- the United States, China and Japan -- also discussed food security and ways to strengthen supply chains, the officials said.
On the sidelines of the meeting, Hagiuda held talks with some of his counterparts, including those from Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand, over issues such as the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific economic framework.
The launch of the framework called IPEF is expected to be formally announced Monday by U.S. President Joe Biden in Tokyo.
Hagiuda has said the launch of IPEF will reinforce the U.S. engagement in the Indo-Pacific region, adding Japan is still hoping for the United States to return to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
Among free trade and economic partnership agreements in the Asia-Pacific region, neither the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the world's biggest trade bloc, nor the TPP includes the United States, while China's clout has grown globally.