Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday delivered a full-throated appeal for maintaining the multilateral free trade system led by the World Trade Organization to counter U.S. protectionist policies and China’s assertive approach to trade.

It is important to uphold the multilateral trade system, based on free, fair and open rules, amid the spread of protectionist moves globally, Abe told a summit of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Brussels.

The economic partnership agreement that Japan and the European Union signed in July underscores the two sides’ determination to work together as standard-bearers of free trade, Abe said.

Apparently referring to trade friction between the United States and China, Abe said that exchanges of unilateral trade measures are not in the interests of any country.

On infrastructure investment in developing countries, Abe said that ensuring transparency and debt sustainability should be international standards, warning China against imposing excess debts on recipient countries to expand its influence.

Abe also expressed his eagerness to draw up an effective initiative against maritime plastic waste during next year’s Group of 20 summit in Japan.

He also stressed the need to fully enforce U.N. sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear and missile development and quickly resolve the country’s abductions of Japanese citizens.

Later on Friday, the ASEM leaders adopted a chair’s statement that wrapped up their discussions, highlighting “the vital need of maintaining an open world economy and upholding the rules-based multilateral trading system.”

The statement also underscored the leaders’ commitment to fully implementing U.N. sanctions on North Korea.

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