Delegate Says Russia is Lone Holdout in Agreeing to U.S. Hosting 2023 Asia-Pacific Forum

One country is allegedly holding back negotiations to let the United States host the 2023 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum, the Associated Press reported.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the "vast majority" of virtual attendants at APEC voted for the U.S. to hold the 2023 conference. However, she said that there was one country that did not vote, leading to a delay in confirming the bid.

"Our hope is certainly that we move past this impasse, that it is resolved and that we can continue the positive momentum on economic cooperation through APEC," Psaki told reporters.

An anonymous delegate from Southeast Asia told AP that the lone country preventing the vote from being confirmed is Russia. According to the delegate, Russia refused to allow the U.S. to host the conference "unless some of its diplomats are removed from a U.S. blacklist or allowed to enter the U.S. to participate."

APEC works on a consensus basis, meaning that all delegates must unanimously agree on a decision before implementing it. Because of Russia's demands and the U.S.'s hesitation to fulfill them, the vote on the future of the 2023 forum has been temporarily delayed.

Outside of the 2023 bid conflict, nations participating at APEC agreed to ease or eliminate tariffs on vaccines, masks and other essential medical products. A joint statement was released by APEC leaders regarding their commitment to conquering the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Because nobody is safe until everyone is safe, we are determined to ensure extensive immunization of our people against COVID-19 as a global public good," the statement said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Putin at APEC
One country is allegedly holding back negotiations to let the United States host the 2023 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum. Above, Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in an APEC leaders' online summit via a video link in Moscow on November 12, 2021. Photo by Mikhail Metzel/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Pacific Rim leaders agreed to do all they can to improve access to coronavirus vaccines and reduce carbon emissions, but failed to reach agreement on whether the U.S. should host talks in two years.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping were among those taking part in the online meeting of 21 leaders at the end of the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum on Saturday, which was being hosted virtually by New Zealand.

The focus was on areas in which the unlikely mix of leaders could find common ground. But the failure of the group to endorse a U.S. bid to host APEC in 2023 pointed to some of the divisions that lie just beneath the surface.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she expected APEC would reach agreement around the U.S. bid by the end of the year, and said that the atmosphere in the room was pragmatic, despite the geopolitical tensions.

"It was constructive, it was positive and convivial, and there was a real common sense of purpose among members," Ardern said.

In a White House statement issued after the meeting, Biden focused on deepening economic partnerships in the region with the goal of fair and open trade, and noted that America has shipped 64 million vaccine doses to APEC economies.

The deep rifts between some members of the group were highlighted this week by a warning from Xi against allowing tensions to cause a relapse into a "Cold War" mentality.

In other areas of agreement, the group emphasized the importance of the World Trade Organization as an arbiter of trade rules. APEC said they wanted to see a pragmatic, multilateral response to COVID-19 at a WTO ministerial meeting later this month.

APEC also said that climate change posed "unprecedented challenges" to the world.

"We acknowledge the need for urgent and concrete action to transition to a climate resilient future global economy and appreciate net zero or carbon neutrality commitments in this regard," the statement read.

In all, APEC members account for nearly 3 billion people and about 60% of the world's GDP.

Many countries in Asia face the challenge of balancing Chinese and U.S. influence on the economic and geopolitical fronts.

China claims vast parts of the South China Sea and other areas and has moved to establish a military presence, building islands in some disputed areas as it asserts its claims.

Both Taiwan and China have applied to join a Pacific Rim trade pact, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, with Beijing saying it will block Taiwan's bid on the basis that the democratically governed island refuses to accept that it's part of Communist-ruled China.

Christchurch Port
New Zealand is hosting this year's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, which culminates in a leader's meeting on November 13, 2021. Continued outbreaks of the coronavirus and related travel restrictions have confined the meeting to the virtual realm for the second straight year. Above, containers are loaded onto a ship for export at Lyttelton Port near Christchurch, New Zealand, on June 3, 2020. AP Photo/Mark Baker