US, China give mixed messages at summit
DANANG: Asia-Pacific nations must “uphold multilateralism”, Chinese president Xi Jinping said yesterday, countering US president Donald Trump’s message that the US would stay out of trade deals that surrender its sovereignty.
Globalisation was an irreversible trend but the world must work to make it more balanced and inclusive, Xi told leaders gathered in the Vietnamese city of Danang for the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) meeting.
His comments came moments after Trump told the same audience the US would not tolerate chronic trade abuse from partners.
“Should we steer economic globalisation or should we dither and stall in the face of challenge? Should we jointly advance regional co-operation or should we go our separate ways?” Xi asked. “Openness brings progress, while self-seclusion leaves one behind.”
During the past year, Xi has positioned China as a defender of globalisation in speeches around the world, contrasting with Trump, who has pursued his “America First” agenda, and pulled the US out of the regional Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.
Trump’s predecessor saw the deal as a way for the US, and not China, to write Asia’s trade rules.
Having just concluded a state visit to China, Trump said the US was ready to make a bilateral deal with any country in the Indo-Pacific region but only on the basis of “mutual respect and mutual benefit”.
He blasted the World Trade Organisation and multilateral trade deals and some analysts expect tougher action might be imminent from the US to fight bilateral trade imbalances with China exacerbated by its state-led economic model.
But Xi’s efforts to seize the mantle of free trade have rung hollow to critics of China, who argue it erects more barriers to foreign companies, using statedriven industrial plans, than any major economy.
Xi said China would “significantly ease market access” for foreign firms and all businesses registered there would be treated as equals.
Soon after Trump left Beijing, China said it would raise foreign ownership limits in financial firms, a move cautiously welcomed as an important step in opening up a tantalising multitrillion-dollar financial services market.
The 11 countries still party to the TPP have been looking for a way forward for the deal on the sidelines of the Apec meeting. Japan had lobbied hard to proceed with the pact that could also help to contain China’s growing regional dominance, as it is not involved.
Xi has been selling an alternate vision for regional trade by promoting the Beijing-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which includes Australia, India and more than a dozen other countries, but not the US.
It is seen as an alternative to the TPP for a path to the broader Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific that Apec aspires to. – Reuters
US President Donald Trump speaks on the final day of the Apec summit in Danang, Vietnam, yesterday.