US President Donald Trump attended an Asia-Pacific summit online on Friday as he challenged his electoral defeat, while China’s Xi Jinping used the forum to counter US protectionism.
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) gathering, held virtually this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, brings together leaders from 21 Pacific Rim economies, accounting for around 60% of global GDP.
China – which came to the top days after scoring a huge victory in a trade pact – became the main driving force behind the grouping after the United States began withdrawing from multilateral bodies during Trump’s presidency.
But Trump made the surprise decision to attend this year’s event, after not attending APEC since 2017, and appeared alongside other leaders on Friday via a video link.
All but one of the leaders had an official APEC backdrop on their screens, which was blue and depicted the huge office of the Malaysian Prime Minister with the green dome.
The exception was Trump, who appeared with a beige background under the US Presidential Seal.
A source involved in organizing the summit said Trump refused to use the official backdrop.
He gave a speech to his fellow leaders during the two-hour event, but it was not open to media.
Analysts said Trump has likely decided to run for APEC this year to run for president as he pursues legal action against election winner Joe Biden.
His appearance was all the more striking as the United States broke with tradition by failing to send a representative to deliver a public speech at the forum ahead of Friday’s official summit.
Trump’s hijacking of multilateral groupings like APEC has left the floor for China to write the Asia-Pacific trade rules, and Xi used his Friday summit speech to launch a strident free trade defense .
“It is important that the Asia-Pacific region remains the engine of safeguarding peace and stability, maintaining multilateralism and promoting an open world economy,” he said, according to the channel. Chinese public CCTV.
“Free and open trade and investment cannot be achieved overnight.”
His remarks will, however, raise eyebrows in capitals where Beijing has been accused of blocking trade amid diplomatic wrangling and using its huge economy as a bargaining chip to bolster weaker rivals.
Xi also said China would also consider joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership – a giant regional free trade pact that was once championed by the United States under Barack Obama but abandoned by Trump.
This year’s APEC gathering took place a week after China and 14 other Asia-Pacific countries signed another free trade pact, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which will be the most important to the world.
The deal, which excludes the United States, was seen as a major coup for China and further proof that Beijing is setting the global trade agenda as Washington pulls out.
Signatories are hoping RCEP will help their virus-hit economies on the road to recovery, and many leaders at the APEC forum have warned of falling back in response to the pandemic.
“We need to trade and invest to get out of the current economic downturn,” Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said in his opening summit speech on Friday.
“We must unite and work constructively to navigate the region on a path of strong, inclusive and sustainable economic recovery and growth.”
At the end of the summit, the leaders issued a joint statement in which they pledged to work together to recover from the pandemic.
Even accepting a statement was a step up from the leaders’ previous summit in 2018, when they were unable to craft a joint statement due to escalating tensions between the United States and China over the trade.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by The Bharat Express News staff and is posted Platforms.)