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APEC summit ends without consensus due to U.S.-China trade dispute

APEC summit ends without consensus due to U.S.-China trade dispute
World
SYDNEY—The trade dispute between the United States and China has led to a standoff at a summit meeting of Pacific Rim leaders in Papua New Guinea, leaving the gathering of 21 nations without a joint closing statement on Sunday for the first time since the forum was founded.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, has not ended without a joint statement since 1989, when the forum was established in Australia.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, right, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, second from right, walk in front of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Sebastian Pinera, Chile’s president, left, as they arrive to take an official photo at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, on Sunday.  (SAEED KHAN / AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Experts said the stalemate would set up a high-stakes showdown at the Group of 20 conference in Argentina this month — which President Xi Jinping of China and U.S. President Donald Trump are expected to attend — while intensifying frustration among countries caught in the crossfire.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was among the first to make clear that the negotiations had not yielded a resolution.

“I don’t think it will come as a huge surprise that there are differing visions. Those prevented there from being a full consensus on the communiqué,” he said.

“The entire world is worried,” Prime Minister Peter O’Neill of Papua New Guinea said, after he confirmed that only a summary of discussion would be issued, not a joint statement.

The disagreement concerned issues that have shaped the trade dispute between the U.S. and China for months.

The Chinese delegation sought to reaffirm its opposition to what it says are protectionism and unilateralism practices by the U.S., especially trade tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese goods.

The opposing positions were staked out in stark terms on Saturday, with combative speeches by Xi and Vice-President Mike Pence. Both men argued that their country had the best interest of the region at heart, battling for loyalty within a trade group that represents 60 per cent of the global economy.

But they also pushed each other toward conflict and escalation.

Pence, appearing in Trump’s place, doubled down on recent criticism of China’s geopolitical strategies and attacked the country’s “One Belt, One Road,” initiative — an infrastructure plan financed by China that covers some 70 countries.

He urged Asian nations to work with the U.S., which, he said, would not saddle them with debt — an issue some countries are facing as a result of their partnerships with Beijing.

Xi, speaking before Pence, insisted that the criticism was misguided, arguing that China’s infrastructure plan would be inclusive and beneficial.

“It will not close a door and create a small circle,” Xi said. “It is not the so-called trap, as some people say. It is the sunshine avenue where China shares opportunities with the world to seek common development.”

Experts said the duelling arguments appeared to have become more entrenched.

“It boils down to mutual intransigence between the U.S. and China,” said Rory Medcalf, head of the National Security College at the Australian National University.

Jonathan Pryke, a Pacific Rim expert at the Lowy Institute, agreed, describing the result as raw “stubbornness.”

Earlier on Sunday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia tried to sound upbeat. “I think there is a lot more progress being made here than I think is probably being acknowledged,” he said.

But by Sunday night, it was increasingly difficult to see the summit meeting as anything but a continuation of hostilities.
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