APEC fails to reach consensus on leaders’ communique amid US-China divisions

Lloyd Doyle
November 20, 2018

The Trump administration has repeatedly accused China of economic coercion, and the two nations have already slapped competing tariffs on exports worth billions of dollars.

"You know the two big giants in the room", Papua New Guinea (PNG) Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said at a closing news conference, when asked which members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group could not agree.

Prior to the meeting, Duterte in a chance interview with reporters, urged the USA and other countries to stop provoking China with military activities.

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

"So the negotiations fell in a heap and the chair [Papua New Guinea] gave up".

They added that some other countries were also frustrated by the stances taken by the U.S. and China.

The final function on Sunday in the capital Port Moresby followed a whirlwind of diplomacy for the leaders of the sparsely populated but strategically important Pacific.

Pato also confirmed to Reuters that Chinese officials had see him on Saturday over the communique, adding they were refused because they had not made "necessary arrangements" for a meeting, but denied media reports they had barged into his office.

Tonga, on the other hand, signed up to the Belt and Road and won deferment on a Chinese loan, a Tongan official said. However, he was quick to point out that this was outside of APEC's remit.

"Those issues related to WTO will have to be discussed and decided ... with the involvement of countries and economies beyond the APEC region", he said.

"At the end of the day what happens to the WTO has to be decided by the full WTO membership."

"We have taken decisive action to address our imbalance with China", Pence declared.

China has been building its influence in the region, and Chinese businesses are now deeply invested in Pacific island countries. Dozens of global journalists invited to the forum by Papua New Guinea were turned away at the door by the Chinese, including reporters from Papua New Guinea itself.

He turned down an invitation from Australia for an informal breakfast in Singapore, asking: "What will they feed us there, kangaroo?" At Apec New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern usefully drew reporters' attention to OECD figures showing that in the five years to 2016, only 10 per cent of aid to PNG came from China; well over half (62 per cent) came from Australia. Australia and New Zealand have put extra efforts and money into their own assistance programmes in the region over the past year and, together with the USA and Japan, they gave PNG an undertaking at the weekend to extend its electricity supply to 70 per cent of the impoverished country by 2030.

While President Xi Jinping's presence at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit was the top story on China's state television, People's Daily and the official Xinhua news agency on Monday, the outlets focused their coverage on Xi's itinerary and his speeches, leaving out the impasse resulting from deep divisions over trade between Beijing and Washington.

The US-China trade war has also been a constant theme throughout the week, with the situation coming to a head during Pence and Xi's speeches on Saturday, followed by the failure to gain consensus on Sunday.

"We all have to hope it goes in a constructive direction". Xi proposed focusing on openness, development, inclusiveness, innovation and a rules-based approach, strengthening worldwide cooperation, improving global economic governance and handling common challenges, Wang said.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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