Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad speaks during the APEC CEO Summit 2018 at the Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, 17 November 2018. Fazry Ismail/Pool via REUTERS
Fault lines were quick to emerge over the future of free trade as leaders gathered for an Asia-Pacific summit on Saturday, with some calling for radical change while others argued for a return to the status quo on globalization.
Speaking at the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit in Papua New Guinea, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad warned that globalization was leaving some people behind and fuelling inequality, according to Reuters report.
“The benefits of free and fair trade and economic integration have been ruptured, exemplified by Brexit and trade wars between major economies,” Mahathir said.
“The trade war between the U.S. and China has amplified further the disruption to our trade and commerce.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison followed by mounting a full-throated defense of free trade.
“Our efforts must be about persuading and convincing our peoples again about the domestic benefits,” said Morrison.
He said over a billion people had been lifted out of extreme poverty since 1991 because of the jobs and more affordable consumer goods that free trade enables.
His speech was a clear reference to the escalating trade war between the United States and China, along with the general protectionism of U.S. President Donald Trump.