China’s Xi vows no decoupling in call to reject protectionism
Pr esident X i Jinping pledged that China wouldn’t engage in decoupling, in an address to Asia- Pacific leaders in Kuala Lumpur just days after the region inaugurated the world’s largest free- trade agreement.
“We will not reverse course or run against the historical trend by ‘ decoupling’ or forming a small circle to keep others out,” Xi said.
Xi spoke by video on Thursday morning as part of Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation summits hosted by Malaysia, an annual gathering being held virtually this year due the pandemic. Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was slated to speak later Thursday, while his counterparts from Japan and New Zealand were expected to address the gathering on Friday.
Xi’s speech came as he— and the world— awaits clues on how US President- elect Joe Biden will approach Beijing. The White House declined to say whether President Donald Trump plans to address the summit.
Trump left National Security Advisor Robert O’brien to represent the US at a separate gathering of Southeast Asian nations last week. Xi and Vice President Mike Pence traded sharp barbs in back- to- back speeches at APEC meetings two years ago, a confrontation that prevented the forum from issuing a joint statement for the first time.
Asia- Pacific nations including China, Japan and South Korea signed the world’s largest regional free- trade agreement over the weekend, encompassing almost a third of the world’s economic output. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, almost a decade in the making, has raised questions over whether the US would move under Biden to counter China’s growing regional influence, especially as Trump withdrew from the Trans- Pacific Partnership in 2017.
“In today’s world where economic globalization has become an irreversible trend, no country can develop itself by keeping its doors closed,” Xi said Thursday.
Last year’s APEC summit in Chile, where Trump had expected to sign a preliminary trade accord with China, was canceled as host city Santiago struggled with street protests. That puts greater onus on reaching a Leaders’ Declaration this year— a non- binding statement covering topics such as urbanization, sustainable tourism and natural disasters.
Malaysian Pr ime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, the event’s host leader, told APEC gatherings Thursday that the “most important priority” was to “reaffirm our support and commitment for the rules- based multilateral trading system.”
“This is essential for our businesses,” Muhyiddin said in a speech, “as market stability and productivity are the central pillars which ensure that trade investment continue to flow even during times of crisis.”