APEC fails to reach consensus as U.S.-China divide deepens
* Leaders fail to agree on communique for first time in APEC
* Meeting marked by competing visions from U.S., China
* U.S.-led plan for PNG seen as alternative to China energy
(Updates with China response, details of leaders' disagreement)
By Philip Wen, Jonathan Barrett and Tom Westbrook
PORT MORESBY, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Asia-Pacific leaders failed
to agree on a communique at a summit in Papua New Guinea on
Sunday for the first time in their history as deep divisions
between the United States and China over trade and investment
Competition between the United States and China over the
Pacific was also thrown into focus with the United States and
its Western allies launching a coordinated response to China's
Belt and Road programme.
"You know the two big giants in the room," Papua New Guinea
(PNG) Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said at a closing news
conference, when asked which of the 21 members of the
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group could not agree.
O'Neill, who was chairman of the meeting, said the sticking
point was over whether mention of the World Trade Organization
and its possible reform should be in the Leaders' Declaration.
"APEC has got no charter over World Trade Organization, that
is a fact. Those matters can be raised at the World Trade
The multilateral trade order that APEC was established in
1989 to protect is crumbling as Chinese assertiveness in the
Pacific and U.S. tariffs strain relations in the region and
A Leaders' Declaration has been issued after every annual
APEC leaders' meeting since the first in 1993, the group's
O'Neill said that as APEC host, he would release a
Chairman's Statement, though it was not clear when.
U.S. President Donald Trump did not attend the meeting and
nor did his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence attended instead of Trump.
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived to great fanfare on
Thursday and was feted by PNG officials. He stoked Western
concern on Friday when he met Pacific island leaders to pitch
his Belt and Road initiative.
The United States and its allies, Japan, Australia and New
Zealand, countered on Sunday with a $1.7 billion plan to deliver
reliable electricity and the internet to PNG.
Wang Xiaolong, a senior economic official with China's APEC
delegation, said of the failure to agree on a joint statement
that it was "not exactly a sticking point between any particular
Most members affirmed their commitment to preserving the
multilateral trading system and supported a robust and
well-functioning WTO, he said.
"Frankly speaking, we are in a very early stage of those
discussions and different countries have different ideas as to
how to take that process forward," Wang said.
One diplomat involved in the negotiations said tension
between the U.S. and China, bubbling all week, erupted when
China's top diplomat, Wang Yi, objected during a leaders'
retreat to two paragraphs in a draft document seen by Reuters.
One mentioned opposing "unfair trade practices" and
reforming the WTO, while another concerned sustainable
"These two countries were pushing each other so much that
the chair couldn't see an option to bridge them," said the
diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"China was angered that the reference to WTO blamed a
country for unfair trade practices."
Pence said in a blunt speech on Saturday there would be no
end to U.S. tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods until China
changed its ways. On Sunday, as he left the PNG capital of Port
Moresby, he listed U.S. differences with China.
"They begin with trade practices, with tariffs and quotas,
forced technology transfers, the theft of intellectual property.
It goes beyond that to freedom of navigation in the seas,
concerns about human rights," Pence told reporters.
Pence also took direct aim at Xi's signature Belt and Road
initiative, saying in his speech countries should not accept
debt that compromised their sovereignty.
"We do not offer a constricting belt or a one-way road," he
CENTRE OF ATTENTION
The Belt and Road plan was first proposed in 2013 to expand
land and sea links between Asia, Africa and Europe, with
billions of dollars in infrastructure investment from China.
APEC host PNG is home to 8 million people, four-fifths of
whom live outside urban areas and with poor infrastructure, and
found itself feted by superpowers.
Xi opened a Beijing-funded boulevard, while Pence talked of
a 400-year old King James Bible in the PNG parliament that he
had played a role in bringing to the country.
Australia, a staunch U.S. ally, has for decades enjoyed
largely unrivalled influence among Pacific island nations. China
has recently turned its attention to the region with a raft of
bilateral financing agreements to often distressed economies.
PNG Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato said his country did not
need to pick sides.
"For us, we welcome Chinese investment, we welcome U.S.
investment. Our foreign policy is to be friends of all, enemies
(Reporting by Philip Wen, Charlotte Greenfield, Jonathan
Barrett and Tom Westbrook in PORT MORESBY;
Editing by John Mair, Robert Birsel)
First Published: 2018-11-18 05:39:51
Updated 2018-11-18 12:24:36
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