Pacific Summit Ends Without Final Communique Agreement

Mae Love
November 20, 2018

The 21 nations at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Port Moresby struggled to bridge differences on the role of the World Trade Organisation, which governs worldwide trade, officials said.

A statement would be issued by the meeting's chair, Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill, instead.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said it shows how strongly the U.S. and its allies are committed to the region.

Asia-Pacific leaders failed to agree on a joint summit on Sunday for the first time in their history as deep divisions between the USA and China over trade and investment stymied cooperation.

Draft versions of the communique showed the USA had called for strong language against unfair trade practices that it accuses China of.

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.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was the first to signal all was not well at the summit, which is meant to promote Trans-Pacific cooperation.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting has ended in disarray, with leaders unable to reach consensus on the official communique.

An acrimonious meeting of world leaders in Papua New Guinea failed to agree Sunday on a final communique, highlighting widening divisions between global powers China and the US.

Pence professed respect for Xi and China but also harshly criticised the world's number 2 economy for intellectual property theft, forced technology transfers and unfair trading practices.

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The APEC meeting was a battlefield cratered by verbal artillery exchanges between the Chinese and US delegations, with Xi complaining about "unilateralism" and "protectionism" and Pence vowing to "hold nations accountable for their unfair economic practices".

Toyoshima notes that all eyes will be on a Group of 20 summit in Argentina in late November where Trump is expected to meet face-to-face with Abe on the sidelines of the leaders' session.

"We don't offer constricting belts or a one-way road", said Pence.

The United States demanded the declaration refer to the need for drastic reforms at the World Trade Organization because the body does not restrain China's "market-distorting practices", including intellectual property violations, according to a source close to the negotiations. "It goes beyond that to freedom of navigation in the seas, concerns about human rights", Vice President Pence said of the Chinese agenda as he departed Papua New Guinea.

The US is interested in a better relationship "but there has to be change" from China's side, Pence said he told Xi, who responded that dialogue is important.

Meanwhile, the U.S. suspects China harbours an ambition to rewrite global trade rules for its own purposes, a project which, if true, would be assisted by President Trump's withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership recently ratified by New Zealand and other Pacific Rim countries.

"The assistance provided by China has been warmly welcomed by our partners in this region and beyond", Wang Xiaolong, a foreign ministry official, told a news conference. "If I do you'll push me further, if you do I'll push you further", he said.

In Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea's capital, the impact of China's aid and loans is highly visible. 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.

The vision, backed by the United States, is also aimed at developing "quality infrastructure" based on four pillars of openness, transparency, cost-effectiveness and the fiscal soundness of recipients, and it intends to facilitate the flow of people and goods within the region.

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