China blames ‘excuses’ for APEC discord as US ties sour further

Reuters Beijing | Updated on November 20, 2018 Published on November 20, 2018


A major Asia-Pacific summit’s failure to agree on a communique resulted from certain countries “excusing” protectionism, a top Chinese diplomat said, in a veiled criticism of Washington that further sours the tone of China-US ties ahead of a G20 meet.

After months of talk over a damaging trade war, the disputed South China Sea and the US support for Chinese-claimed Taiwan, the two nations’ Presidents took a step back from the edge with an ice-breaking telephone call earlier this month.

While both US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed optimism about resolving their trade war ahead of a planned meeting at the G20 meeting in Argentina at the end of next week, relations have faltered again.

The weekend’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Port Moresby was one of open disagreement, topped by disputes between the US and China over trade, security and which would be the better investment partner for the region.

The gathered leaders failed to agree to a joint communique, against the backdrop of the bitter trade war.

The inability to reach a communique was “by no means accidental,” the Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi said on the foreign ministry’s website late on Monday.

“It is mainly that individual economies insisted on imposing their own texts on other parties, excusing protectionism and unilateralism, and not accepting reasonable revisions from the Chinese and other parties,” the ministry cited Wang as saying, in an oblique reference to the United States.

“This practice caused dissatisfaction among many economies, including China, and it is not in line with the consensus principle adhered to by the APEC.”

Wang added, “It is in the joint interests of all parties and cannot be ignored.”

On Monday, China’s foreign ministry said the United States, whose delegation at the summit was led by Vice President Mike Pence, attended APEC in a “blaze of anger”, and that China had not gone to “get into a boxing ring”.

Pence said the United States would not back down from the trade dispute, and might even double tariffs, unless Beijing bowed to demands. On Tuesday, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman added to the criticism of the failure to sign the communique.

Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing, “An individual member” of APEC would not heed other members and insisted on trying to add content “harming other countries’ basic interests”.

China took a dig on Monday at Pence’s pledge of development financing of $60 billion for what the Trump administration calls the Indo-Pacific region, a promise widely seen as Washington’s answer to Xi’s massive Belt and Road infrastructure plan.

“We note that some voices worry whether the United States can make good on its promises and whether they’re just paying lip service,” Geng said.

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Published on November 20, 2018
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