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Walk out at trade meeting when Russia spoke "not one-off", says Trade Minister

OTTAWA — Canada's international trade minister has warned the walkout she staged when a Russian representative began his remarks at a meeting of trade ministers in Bangkok over the weekend is "not a one-off".

OTTAWA — Canada's international trade minister has warned the walkout she staged when a Russian representative began his remarks at a meeting of trade ministers in Bangkok over the weekend is "not a one-off".

Mary Ng said she would be prepared to take the same action again if Russian officials address similar delegations in the future, adding that country's invasion of Ukraine means circumstances on the international stage are "not business as usual."

Ng, with counterparts from the United States, Australia, Japan and New Zealand, walked out of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Group meeting on Saturday to send a message to Russia about its disregard for the rules-based world order.

She said she and other trade ministers planned in advance for the dramatic walkout to happen as Maxim Reshetnikov, Russia’s minister for economic development, started speaking. 

"We all, as like-minded countries, co-ordinated to do this together," Ng told The Canadian Press in an interview from Thailand. "Canada has been very clear in our position on the illegal war on Ukraine by Russia. The reason I did this was to send an important message to my broader colleagues and certainly to Russia."

Ng said she hoped to encourage colleagues at the meeting to "stand up for the rules-based trading system," which she said Russia has flouted. 

Her walkout follows a similar action last month by deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland at the G20 meeting in Washington D.C. 

Ng said members of the APEC group, a regional economic forum with 21 members including China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Mexico, Indonesia and South Korea, should "stand together to reject Russia's blatant disregard for the rules and its shameless behaviour towards Ukraine." 

China has not publicly condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin for his country's invasion of Ukraine. 

Ng, who also conducted a series of bilateral talks in Thailand, said APEC trade ministers discussed how the Russian invasion is having an impact "in all of our backyards", including through rising energy costs and food shortages. 

"We cannot ignore the fact that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused a real material effect on all of our economies," she said. 

She said her "heart goes out to Bangladesh," which has suffered devastating floods and relies heavily on Ukrainian wheat as a staple food. 

Ukraine has said it cannot export its wheat due to Russian blockades at its ports.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly has promised to send Canadian cargo ships to ports in Romania and other European countries bordering Ukraine to help the war-torn nation export its grain. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 23, 2022.

Marie Woolf, The Canadian Press

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