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Europe, Asia Leaders Meet on Trade     10/19 06:09

   European and Asian leaders gathered Friday to pledge their support for free 
trade, at a meeting that underscored trade tensions with U.S. President Donald 

   BRUSSELS (AP) -- European and Asian leaders gathered Friday to pledge their 
support for free trade, at a meeting that underscored trade tensions with U.S. 
President Donald Trump.

   German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the Asia-Europe Meeting in Brussels 
would send a signal that "countries are coming together here from Europe and 
Asia that all want rules-based global trade and are committed to 

   The meeting brings together 30 European leaders with their counterparts from 
21 Asian nations as well as top officials from the European Union and 
Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

   Together, the group accounts for some two-thirds of the world's economic 
output, 55 percent of global trade and 60 percent of the world's population.

   In a draft of the meeting's closing statement seen by The Associated Press, 
the leaders say they "highlighted the vital need of maintaining an open world 
economy and upholding the rules-based multilateral trading system, with the 
World Trade Organization at its core."

   Trump slapped 25 percent tariffs on steel imports and 10 percent on imported 
aluminum from the EU on June 1. He said the move was to protect U.S. national 
security interests, but the Europeans claim it is simply protectionism and 
breaks global trade rules. The EU hit back with tariffs on about 2.8 billion 
euros-worth ($3.4 billion) of U.S. steel, agricultural and other products.

   The stakes are even higher in Trump's trade war with China. Trump has 
imposed tariffs on about $250 billion of Chinese products amid U.S. accusations 
that China engages in cyber-theft and coerces foreign companies into handing 
over technology in return for access to the Chinese market, as well as by 
Trump's anger over China's trade surplus with the U.S.

   The wide-ranging agenda of the Brussels meeting also included discussions on 
climate change, with leaders in the draft conclusions "expressing their 
profound concern that current global efforts are insufficient" to meet goals 
set out in the Paris climate accord. Trump has removed the U.S. from that deal.

   In another draft conclusion that ran counter to U.S. policy, European and 
Asian leaders praised the Iran nuclear deal --- another multilateral initiative 
rejected by Trump.

   "Preserving the nuclear deal with Iran is a matter of respecting 
international agreements, and promoting international security, peace and 
stability," the draft conclusions said.

   One region where the leaders in Brussels were more closely aligned with 
Trump was the Korean peninsula, where the U.S. president has been involved with 
efforts to end North Korea's nuclear program.

   The draft declaration hailed efforts by South Korea and "other partners" to 
"achieve lasting peace and stability on a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear 

   Rights groups and lawmakers had called on the European leaders to push their 
Asian counterparts on human rights, citing abuses in many Asian nations, 
including the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh.

   Buddhist-majority Myanmar's military is accused of widespread rights 
violations, including rape, murder, torture and burning villages, which has 
seen about 700,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh since August last year.

   Without mentioning Rohingya by name, the leaders underscored the need to 
pave the way for the "safe, voluntary, dignified, and sustainable return of 
displaced persons to Rakhine State."


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