Fri, Nov 20, 2020 – 9:54 PM
[KUALA LUMPUR] A virtual summit of Asia-Pacific leaders began Friday in the presence of US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to discuss the coronavirus crisis and the global economic recovery amid persistent trade disputes.
The couple joined a meeting of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders from 21 countries, hosted virtually by Malaysia, just two weeks after Trump lost his reelection bid.
Asia-Pacific leaders called for more open and multilateral trade to support economic recovery and cautioned against protectionist trade policies, with Xi saying unilateralism has added to global economic risks.
At the last Apec summit in 2018, member countries failed to agree on a joint communiqué for the first time in the bloc’s history, with the United States and China at odds on trade and investments.
Mr Trump has imposed tariffs on billions of dollars of Chinese goods, which has sparked a trade war between the world’s two largest economies.
In the opening speech of the leaders’ meeting, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said that the bloc’s top priority should be to reaffirm its support and commitment to a rules-based multilateral trading system.
“This is essential for our businesses, because market stability and predictability are the central pillars that ensure that trade and investment continue to flow, even in times of crisis,” Muhyiddin said.
Other leaders who joined the virtual meeting included New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Russian President Vladamir Putin and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Ahead of Friday’s 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,” Ms. Ardern said on Friday during dialogues with CEOs of Apec.
“Apec must continue to commit to keeping markets open and keeping trade flowing.” Other Asia-Pacific leaders have also expressed hope that Joe Biden’s new US administration will be more engaged and support multilateral trade.
Mr. Trump has pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership 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 and 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.
Mr Trump also missed two virtual meetings on Asia last week: the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit and the wider Asia-South summit. ‘Is.
In addition to working on a joint communiqué, Apec leaders are expected to discuss the bloc’s post-2020 vision, which would replace the 1994 Bogor targets – a set of targets on reducing trade and trade barriers. ‘investment – which expire this year.
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