Sat, Nov 11, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Trump, Xi tout competing visions on trade at APEC

AFP, DA NANG, Vietnam

Burmese State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, right, talks to Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski during the APEC-ASEAN dialogue on the sidelines of the APEC leaders’ summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, yesterday.

Photo: EPA-EFE

The leaders of the US and China yesterday laid out sharply divergent visions for the future of global trade, with US President Donald Trump doubling down on his “America First” rhetoric, leaving Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) to defend the “irreversible” tide of globalization.

Xi, who has emerged as the most powerful Chinese leader in decades, and Trump, whose woes include dismal approval ratings at home, spoke moments apart at the APEC leaders’ summit in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang.

Trump in turns lavished praise on Asia-Pacific nations and accused them of undercutting the world’s largest economy, saying US interests had been ill-served by the architecture of global trade.

He vowed his nation would “no longer tolerate” unfair trade, closed markets and intellectual property theft.

“We are not going to let the United States be taken advantage of any more,” Trump said, taking a swipe at the WTO for failing to police free-trade infringements.

“I am always going to put America first the same way I expect all of you in this room to put your countries first,” he said.

In response, Xi swiftly moved to occupy the space vacated by Trump, positioning China as the champion of a world with fewer barriers to commerce.

He defended globalization, which has seen his nation pull itself from poverty to become a superpower in three decades, calling it an “irreversible historical trend,” but as gripes over trade imbalances, job losses and social inequality abound, he conceded that free-trade philosophy needed to be repurposed to be “more open, more balanced, more equitable.”

Ahead of his speech, China announced it would further open the nation’s financial markets to foreign firms, a key demand from the US and other global investors, who have long complained about strict limits on access to the world’s second-largest economy.

Trump arrived in Vietnam from Beijing, where he sought to build a consensus against North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

In China he was gushing in his praise of Xi, calling his host “a very special man” in a trip rich with photo opportunities, but lacking concrete outcomes on tackling key issues such as North Korea.

Russia and the US gave mixed messages about whether their leaders would meet in Da Nang, with the White House ruling out an encounter, but the Kremlin saying it could still happen.

A face-to-face would be a box office event, with Russia accused of interfering in the US election last year that brought the billionaire one-time reality TV star to power.

The rise of Trump as leader of the world’s biggest economy risks unpicking decades of US-led economic diplomacy that webbed global economies together with free trade and low tariff pacts.

He has pledged to wring a better deal from nations the US has large trade deficits with — including China — and bring jobs back to the hollowed out US industrial heartland that voted for him.

However, proponents of free trade, including many allies, have looked on aghast as the president tears up the rule book and anti-globalization arguments ricochet through the US and Europe.

Trump has already pulled Washington’s support from the sprawling 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact and vowed to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, a trade deal between the US, Canada and Mexico.

Asia-Pacific ministers were struggling to salvage the TPP deal, with Canada denying reports that an agreement had been struck among the remaining 11 nations to press ahead without the US.

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