PORT MORESBY (Reuters) – At a summit meeting in Papua New Guinea on Sunday for the first time in its history, leaders of the Asia-Pacific nations did not agree on a communiqué for the first time in its history, as it was between the United States States and China had deep divisions due to trade and investment disputes.
The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Peter O & Neil, US Vice President Mike Pence, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern look at Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the signing of a joint power agreement between Australia and Japan, New Zealand, USA for Papua New Guinea, during the APEC Summit in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, November 1
The competition between the US and China over the Pacific has also coincided with the Taking center stage The United States and its Western allies are starting a coordinated response to China's belt and road program.
"You know the two big giants in the room," Papua New Guinea (PNG) PM Peter Neill said at a closing press conference when asked which of the 21 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)) group could not agree.
O'Neill, chairman of the meeting, said it was about whether the World Trade Organization and its possible reform should be mentioned in the statement of the Heads of State and Government.
"The APEC does not have a Charter on the World Trade Organization, that's a fact. These questions can be addressed to the World Trade Organization. "
The multilateral trade code, which APEC was founded to protect in 1989, is crumbling as the ability of the Chinese people in the Pacific and the US to tighten relations in the region and share loyalty.
After each annual meeting of APEC leaders since the first meeting in 1993, a statement was made by the leaders, as the group's website shows.
O'Neill said that as the host of APEC, he would release a statement from the chairman, though it was not clear when.
US. President Donald Trump did not attend the meeting, as did his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
US. Vice President Mike Pence took the place of Trump.
Chinese President Xi Jinping made a big fanfare on Thursday and was held by PNG officials. On Friday, he worried about the concerns of the West as he met with leaders from the Pacific Island to launch 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 provide reliable electricity and the Internet for PNG.
Wang Xiaolong, a senior economic officer for the Chinese APEC delegation, said that it had failed to agree on a joint statement that "it is not exactly a fixed point between two specific countries" ,
Most Members reaffirmed their commitment to maintain the multilateral trading system and supported a robust and well-functioning WTO.
"Honestly, we are in a very early stage of these discussions, and different countries have different ideas on how to move this process forward," Wang said.
A diplomat involved in the negotiations reported tensions between the US and China that bubbled up throughout the week, when China's top diplomat Wang Yi objected to a two-paragraph withdrawal of a leader in a bill Reuters viewed.
One mentioned resistance to "unfair trade practices" and reform of the WTO, while another mentioned sustainable development.
"These two countries were so crowded that the chairman saw no option to bridge them," the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
"China was angry that the WTO reference blamed a country for unfair trade practices."
Pence said in a straightforward speech on Saturday that US tariffs on Chinese goods worth $ 250 billion will not end. On Sunday, when he left the PNG capital, Port Moresby, he listed the differences between the US and China.
"They begin with commercial practices, customs duties and quotas, forced technology transfers, and theft of intellectual property. It is also about the freedom of navigation and the concern for human rights, "Pence told reporters.
Pence also aimed directly at Xi's signing of the Belt and Road initiative, saying that countries should not accept debts jeopardizing their sovereignty in their speech.
"We do not offer a tight belt or a one-way street," he said.
The Belt and Road Plan was first proposed in 2013 to expand land and sea links between Asia, Africa and Europe with billions in investment in China.
The APEC host PNG is home to 8 million people, four-fifths of whom live outside urban areas with poor infrastructure and are defeated by superpowers.
Xi opened a Beijing-funded boulevard while Pence spoke of a 400-year-old King James Bible in the PNG Parliament he had brought with him.
Australia, a staunch US ally, has enjoyed a largely unsurpassed influence between the Pacific islands for decades. China has recently turned to the region with a series of bilateral financing agreements with often troubled economies.
PNG Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato said his country does not need to choose sides.
"We welcome Chinese investment, we welcome US investment. Our foreign policy is to be friends of all, enemies of no one.
Report by Philip Wen, Charlotte Greenfield, Jonathan Barrett, and Tom Westbrook in PORT MORESBY; Editing by John Mair, Robert Birsel