APEC fails to reach consensus as U.S.-China divide deepens

Frederick Owens
November 19, 2018

Leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum yesterday failed to issue a joint communique for the first time in the grouping's history, reflecting the deep division on trade.

"The entire world is worried" about tensions between China and the U.S., O'Neill told a mob of reporters that descended on him after he confirmed there was no communique from leaders.

He says there were differences on trade issues among several countries including China and the US, which have been engaged in a tit-for-tat tariff war this year.

The US and China have imposed tit-for-tat tariffs on billions of dollars worth of each other's goods, with both threatening to step up action if necessary.

PRIME MINISTER LEE HSIEN LOONG, on the impact of a prolonged trade war between the United States and China on global growth. "Those prevented there from being a full consensus on the communique".

The two-day summit was acrimonious and highlighted competition between China and the West for influence in the South Pacific.

US Vice President Mike Pence and Chinese President Xi Jinping traded barbs on Saturday.

Draft versions of the communiqué seen by The Associated Press showed that the US wanted strong language condemning unfair trade practices like those that it says China regularly deploys, including restricting market access and pushing foreign companies to hand over valuable technology.

The guidelines are viewed as a veiled counter to China, as countries such as Sri Lanka and Pakistan are now struggling to repay massive loans received as "aid" under the infrastructure initiative aimed at connecting nations along the ancient Silk Road.

Mr Xi said the world is facing a choice between co-operation and confrontation as protectionism and unilateralism grows and added that the rules of global institutions set up after the Second World War such as the WTO should not be exploited for selfish agendas.

APEC leaders divided after US, China spat

The feisty barbs on a gleaming white cruise ship moored in Port Moresby come ahead of a meeting between Xi and the U.S. president, Donald Trump, at the G20 summit in Argentina at the end of November.

Mr Pence had stated that the United States will not lift tariffs until "China changes its ways". "They begin with trade practices, with tariffs and quotas, forced technology transfers, the theft of intellectual property. It goes beyond that to freedom of navigation in the seas, concerns about human rights", Pence told reporters travelling with him.

Prior to Pence's comments, China's Xi Jinping lashed out at U.S. protectionism, labeling the U.S. approach as "short-sighted" and was "doomed to failure".

"We need to look at what Mahathir is doing, he has been very concerned about the future and sovereignty of Malaysia, he doesn't want the country to be a colony of China".

Chinese foreign ministry official Zhang Xiaolong denied the incident, telling reporters: "It's not true".

Since the establishment of diplomatic ties 27 years ago, the two countries have been treating each other as equals, and scored deepening political mutual trust and fruitful results in various cooperations, which brought tangible benefits to the two peoples and made positive contributions to peace and prosperity in the region, said Xi. "What can I say?" said host and Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill, conceding defeat.

Pence said the United States would join Australia to help PNG build a navy base on its Manus Island, which was a US base in World War II, after China had emerged as a possible developer of the deep-water port.

Pence said on Saturday the USA would partner with Papua New Guinea and Australia in redeveloping the Lombrum Naval Base on Manus Island.

The project aims to raise the percentage of the PNG population with access to electricity from 13 per cent to 70 per cent.

And as the U.S. and China tussle for influence in the region, the statement dangled the prospect of similar projects for countries that "support principles and values which help maintain and promote a free, open, prosperous and rules-based region".

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