Philippine police pushed back crowds with water canons in Manila on Thursday as demonstrators protested the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, soon after member states agreed that the the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement would be signed on Feb. 4, 2016 in New Zealand, EFE reports.
Protesters shouted “We are not for sale” and “Junk APEC!” as they tried to make their way toward the venue where leaders of the 21-nation bloc, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and U.S. President Barack Obama, gathered for the two-day summit.
On Wednesday, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key reportedly told APEC leaders the TPP could be signed off by his country as soon as February.
"John Key also informed me that there is a possibility that this agreement will be signed in New Zealand in early February if in the context of Malaysia, Parliament were to give its approval,"Malaysia Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak told reporters, according to New Zealand’s TVNZ news website.
Filipino and international protesters have slammed APEC and its free trade policies for promoting economic development that caters to the interests of transnational corporations while worsening poverty and inequality for people in the Philippines and around the world.
Philippine police block demonstrators protesting the APEC Summit in Manila on Nov. 19, 2015. I Photo: Reuters
While APEC usually focuses on trade, this year’s summit was largely overshadowed by international security and terrorism in the wake of last week’s Paris attacks, as well as territorial feuds in the South China Sea.
APEC condemned terrorism and called for an urgent international response while also stressing underlying economic concerns, according to a draft joint statement cited by EFE.
“We will not allow terrorism to threaten the fundamental values that underpin our free and open economies,” said the APEC statement. “Economic growth, prosperity, and opportunity are the strongest tools to address the root causes of terrorism and radicalization.”
APEC highlighted the “urgent need for increased international cooperation and solidarity in the fight against terrorism," according to the text.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino (C) and other world leaders of the 21-member APEC summit on Nov. 19, 2015. I Photo: Reuters
The call for increased international action follows a call from French President Francois Hollande for Russia and the United States to unite in an international coalition to strengthen the fight against the Islamic State group in the wake of the Paris attacks.
President Obama also called on Russia during the APEC summit to focus its attention on combatting the Islamic State group in its operations in Syria.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev also said on Thursday that terrorism is a global problem and an international response requires “unified, coordinated, and truly concerted action.”
The APEC summit has taken place under tight security in Manila with a 28,000-strong police force on hand to control protesters and address potential breaches in security.
“Protesters march in Manila near the APEC Summit on Nov. 19, 2015. I Photo: Reuters
Leaders have held several talks on the sidelines of the summit, including a meeting between the 12 heads of state involved in the controversial Trans Pacific Partnership.
APEC, a 21-economy bloc that already accounts for nearly half of global trade, is looking to expand its free trade area by 2025.