A meeting of world leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, failed to deliver any meaningful progress between the two superpowers.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on November 19, 2018

The 21 nations of APEC sent representatives to discuss the role of the World Trade Organization among other big-picture economic issues.

The countries had intended to issue a joint communique at the summit’s end, to be issued by the meeting chair, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

The nations failed to reach any consensus, however, and no such statement was issued.

O’Neill later told reporters that the “entire world is worried” about worsening US-China relations. The meeting marked the first time in 29 years of APEC summits that the leaders had not been able to agree on a suitable joint declaration.

US and China at odds over trade, WTO

Possible reform of the WTO was a sticking point in coming to an agreement, O’Neill said. “APEC has got no charter over World Trade Organization, that is a fact. Those matters can be raised at the World Trade Organization.”

“I don’t think it will come as a huge surprise that there are differing visions on trade,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. “Those (differences) prevented there from being a full consensus on the communique.”

The countries involved represent a combined 60% of the world economy.

The US, represented by Vice-President Mike Pence, reportedly sought a statement including a strong denunciation of China over unfair trade practices.

China’s delegation, led by President Xi Jinping, sought a statement opposing US isolationism and protectionist trade policies.

China and the US have been locked in a trade war

Both countries have imposed tariffs and retaliatory tariffs on each other’s goods this year.

China has recently been seeking to strengthen its alliances with Pacific nations and has stepped up its aid packages to the region.

Xi Jiping said the world faces a stark choice between cooperation and confrontation and unilateralism. He said the rules of global institutions such as the World Trade Organization were drawn up in the aftermath of World War II and should not be used for the selfish agendas of individual nations.

Header image credit: Gage Skidmore