China blames protectionism for discord in Apec

China's President Xi Jinping leaving the Apec summit in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, on Sunday.
China's President Xi Jinping leaving the Apec summit in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, on Sunday.PHOTO: REUTERS

Top diplomat puts failure to agree on communique down to US, without naming it

BEIJING • A major Asia-Pacific summit's failure to agree on a communique resulted from certain countries "excusing" protectionism, a top Chinese diplomat said, in a veiled criticism of Washington that further sours the tone of China-US ties ahead of a Group of 20 meet.

After months of bickering over a damaging trade war, the disputed South China Sea and US support for Chinese-claimed Taiwan, the two nations' presidents took a step back from the edge with an ice-breaking telephone call early this month.

While both US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed optimism about resolving their trade war ahead of a planned meeting at the G-20 meeting in Argentina next week, relations have since faltered again.

The weekend's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Port Moresby was one of open discord, topped by US-China disputes over trade, security and which would be the better investment partner for the region.

For the first time, Apec failed to agree on a joint communique.

The inability to reach a communique was "by no means accidental", the Chinese government's top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, said in comments on the foreign ministry's website late on Monday.

"It is mainly that individual economies insisted on imposing their own texts on other parties, excusing protectionism and unilateralism, and not accepting reasonable revisions from the Chinese and other parties," the ministry cited Mr Wang as saying, without naming any country, in an oblique reference to the US.

"This practice caused dissatisfaction among many economies, including China, and it is obviously not in line with the consensus principle adhered to by Apec." Consensus is where the value lies in Apec, Mr Wang added. "It is in the joint interests of all parties and cannot be ignored and abandoned."

UNREASONABLE

It is mainly that individual economies insisted on imposing their own texts on other parties, excusing protectionism and unilateralism, and not accepting reasonable revisions from the Chinese and other parties.

STATE COUNCILLOR WANG YI (above), on China's foreign ministry's website, without naming any country, in an oblique reference to the US.

On Monday, China's Foreign Ministry said the US, whose delegation was led by Vice-President Mike Pence, attended Apec in a "blaze of anger", and that China had not gone to "get into a boxing ring".

Mr Pence said the US would not back down from the trade dispute, and might even double tariffs, unless Beijing bowed to US demands.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman yesterday added to the criticism of the failure to sign the communique. "An individual member" of Apec would not heed other members and insisted on trying to add content "harming other countries' basic interests", trying to "put on a coat of legitimacy to its protectionist, unilateralist ways", Mr Geng Shuang told a press briefing.

China also took a dig on Monday at Mr Pence's pledge of US$60 billion (S$82 billion) development financing for what the Trump administration calls the Indo-Pacific region, a promise widely seen as the US' answer to Mr Xi's massive Belt and Road infrastructure plan.

"We take note that some voices worry whether the US can make good on its promises and whether they're just paying lip service," Mr Geng said. "We hope these worries don't come to pass."

The trade spat between China and the US has dragged down financial markets, with world stocks falling on Monday partly due to the persistent tension.

Mr Trump has imposed tariffs on US$250 billion worth of Chinese imports to force concessions on a list of demands that would change the two countries' terms of trade. China has responded with import tariffs on US goods.

 
 
 

Washington wants Beijing to improve market access and intellectual property protections for US firms, cut industrial subsidies and reduce a US$375 billion trade gap.

Last week, China had delivered a written response to US demands for wide-ranging reforms.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2018, with the headline 'China blames protectionism for discord in Apec'. Print Edition | Subscribe