US, China give mixed mes­sages at sum­mit

Pretoria News Weekend - - WORLD -

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

PIC­TURE: EPA-EFE

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks on the fi­nal day of the Apec sum­mit in Danang, Viet­nam, yes­ter­day.

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