Port Moresby : Trade disputes and the competition for geopolitical influence in the Pacific between China and the US took centre stage at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Papua New Guinea on Saturday, where 21 member nations were gathered with the aim of drawing up a common trade area by 2020.
While Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated his opinion that no country benefits from a trade war, US Vice President Mike Pence used his speech to warn Beijing of further sanctions if the Asian superpower does not end what he termed abusive trade practices, the BBC reported.
“History has shown that confrontation, whether in the form of a cold war, a hot war or a trade war, will produce no winners,” Xi told delegates gathered here at the summit in Port Moresby.
He advocated multilateral relations without egotistical agendas or protectionism, which he said were condemned to failure in what was interpreted as a thinly-veiled dig at the “America First” policies pursued by US President Donald Trump, who did not attend the APEC gathering.
“Attempts to erect barriers and cut close economic ties work against the laws of economics and the trends of history,” Xi said, adding that “this is a shortsighted approach and it is doomed to failure”.
Pence struck a more hawkish tone, although he prefixed his speech by saying the Trump administration admired Xi and China.
“In the President’s words, China’s taken advantage of the US for many, many years, and those days are over,” Pence said.
“As the President added, China has tremendous barriers, it has tremendous tariffs and, as we all know, their country engages in quotas, forced technology transfers, intellectual property theft and industrial subsidies on an unprecedented scale,” Pence went on.
“Such actions have actually contributed to a $375 billion trade deficit with the US last year alone,” he said.
He said Trump’s move in September to levy tariffs worth $250 billion on Chinese imports — to which China responded in kind, placing roughly $110 billion of its own tariffs against US imports — was in defence of US interests, but warned that Washington could double its tariffs if China does not adhere to commercial policies proposed by Washington.
“The US will not change course until China changes its ways,” Pence said.
He also took aim at China’s development programmes in the region, such as the Silk Road initiative that Beijing hopes will connect trade routes through Central Asia and into Europe, which Pence described as being of lower quality.
He also said that Chinese initiatives damaged the sovereignty of other nations, while US enterprises prioritized other countries’ sovereignty.
Founded in 1989, APEC accounts for 60 per cent of global GDP, more than half of global trade and constitutes a market of around 2.85 billion consumers, or roughly 40 per cent of the global population.
It aims to establish a free trade zone among the 21 member economies by 2020.