Balancing act: Thailand faces challenge of keeping all sides happy at 2022 Apec Summit

With the world more divided than ever, will Thailand be able to successfully balance world powers at the upcoming Apec Summit? Especially with the Russia-Ukraine war in the background and President Vladimir Putin scheduled to attend.

The last time Thailand hosted Apec nations was in 2003, and it was a successful event. Leaders from across the world had gathered and made agreements on free trade and enhancing security. The Thai government is hoping for a repeat of that success this month, but the conditions are different. This time, Apec members are torn – facing differences and threats.

The biggest threat is the Russia-Ukraine war, which complicates Thailand’s role as summit host in many ways.

balancing act: thailand faces challenge of keeping all sides happy at 2022 apec summit

Russia is a key Apec member but is being condemned and sanctioned by many other Apec nations like the US, Australia, Canada, Japan and New Zealand for invading Ukraine. On the other hand, other Apec members like China have rejected calls to condemn Russia for the invasion and have refused to join international sanctions against Moscow.

The question for Thailand as host of the Apec Summit now is: how will it balance these differences and ease tensions? If it makes the right moves, it could help with negotiations and bring peace to Ukraine faster.
However, one minor mistake in the meeting with Russia, the US and China on the same table may result in an intensification of the war.

Though Thailand has taken pains to avoid condemning Russia directly, it shares the same hope as others that the war in Ukraine ends quickly. Hence, as Apec host this year, Thailand is not trying to isolate Russia from the rest of the world. The government has extended an invitation to Russia and is hoping Putin will attend. Thailand is hoping to balance negotiations with all sides and find the best solution for this conflict.

It also hopes there is no repeat of the incident at the Apec Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting on May 21-22 when representatives from five countries walked out. Representatives from Canada, New Zealand, Japan and Australia joined their US counterpart in walking out while Russian Economy Minister Maxim Reshetnikov was delivering remarks.

Of course, Apec leaders are bound to clash over handling relations with Russia. Many members will try to exclude Moscow, but their efforts will most likely be blocked by China. Maintaining a balance between its neutral stance and being a capable host may put Thailand in an awkward situation.

balancing act: thailand faces challenge of keeping all sides happy at 2022 apec summit

Apart from balancing challenges over the war, Thailand also has to tackle potential confrontations between China and the US over trade competition. While the US is doing what it can to protect its interests and supremacy, China is looking for ways to get its hands on the pie. Hence, Thailand will likely find itself in a difficult position – balancing the US and China’s economic concerns and stance.

The world is far more divided this year than it was in 2003 when each Apec country had its own agenda and interests to protect.

Furthermore, this will be the first time Apec leaders come face to face in three years since the pandemic. Anticipation and expectations are high as the world watches to see if Thailand can play a good balancing act and is successful in hosting the Apec Summit again.

balancing act: thailand faces challenge of keeping all sides happy at 2022 apec summit