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Trump, Xi meet at Asia-Pacific virtual forum as trade dispute continues

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U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping participate in a bilateral meeting during the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 1, 2018.

Tom Brenner / The New York Times News Service

U.S. President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping will attend a virtual summit of Asia-Pacific leaders on Friday to discuss the coronavirus and the global economic recovery, with lingering trade disputes likely to cloud the meeting.

The duo will attend a meeting of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders from 21 countries, hosted virtually by Malaysia, just two weeks after Trump lost his re-election bid.

Asia-Pacific leaders called for more open and multilateral trade to support economic recovery and warned against protectionist trade policies such as those introduced by Trump since 2017.

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At the last APEC summit in 2018, countries failed to agree on a joint communique for the first time in bloc history, with the United States and China at odds over trade and investments.

Ahead of the Friday meeting, several APEC leaders warned of protectionism as the world grapples with the economic impact of the novel coronavirus.

As we face the greatest economic challenge of this generation, we must not repeat the mistakes of history by retreating into protectionism, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday during dialogues with CEOs of APEC.

APEC must continue to be committed to maintaining open markets and free trade.

Xi said on Thursday that the rise of unilateralism, protectionism and intimidation as well as backlashes against economic globalization had added to the risks and uncertainties in the global economy.

He said China will remain committed to multilateralism, openness and cooperation.

Other Asia-Pacific leaders have also expressed hope that a Joe Biden administration will be more engaged and support multilateral trade.

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Trump introduced tariffs on billions of dollars in Chinese goods, sparking a trade war between the world’s two largest economies, and also pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact.

The United States is also absent from the world’s largest free trade bloc, the Regional Comprehensive Partnership Agreement (RCEP), a pact of 15 countries backed by China that was signed last week.

The Trump administration has been criticized for a lower level of engagement in Asia. The only time he joined an APEC summit held annually was in 2017. Last year’s summit in Chile was canceled due to violent protests.

Trump also missed two virtual meetings on Asia last week: the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit and the broader East Asia summit. .

In addition to working on a joint communiqué, APEC leaders are also expected to discuss the bloc’s vision for post-2020, which would replace the 1994 Bogor goals with a set of goals on reducing barriers to government. trade and investment that expire this year.

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