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Diplomacy

There are no winners in a trade war, Xi Jinping tells Apec summit as he urges leaders to defend globalisation

  • Chinese president tells summit of Asia-Pacific leaders in Papua New Guinea to chose cooperation over confrontation
  • Xi defends Belt and Road Initiative from claims it is locking poorer countries into a debt trap
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 November, 2018, 10:22am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 November, 2018, 10:54pm

President Xi Jinping said China was committed to giving more market access to foreign companies as he criticised protectionism and called on the Asia-Pacific nations to protect the global trade system amid ongoing tensions with the United States.

Addressing the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Papua New Guinea on Saturday, Xi also defended China’s “Belt and Road Initiative”, insisting it was neither a closed club nor a debt trap.

Xi told delegates: “The world is currently going through big changes, the trend of globalisation must go forward, but unilateralism and protectionism are overshadowing economic growth.”

“Mankind will have to choose between cooperation or resistance – opening up for mutual benefits or a zero-sum game.”

To applause from the audience he also warned: “History has shown that confrontation, whether in the form of a cold war, a hot war or a trade war will produce no winners.”

It’s good to talk, but Australia and China are worlds apart

China is currently locked in a escalating trade war with the United States, but Xi did not directly mention the United States or Donald Trump in his speech.

However, he said protectionism would not solve any problems, adding that globalisation was an irreversible trend.

“Many countries’ interests are closely intertwined these days. They are all connected by global supply chains. We are all linked. Short-sightedness will not make us successful. Mankind has again reached a crossroads. Which direction should we choose: cooperation or confrontation?

“We must seek common ground and put away our differences. We must pursue coexistence and closely cooperate with one another for a win-win outcome.”

One of the major US grievances with China concerns the alleged theft of intellectual property and forced technology transfers. But Xi argued in his speech that intellectual copyright protection should not be used to increase the technology divide and called for a global governance system.

He said China remained committed to opening up to foreign companies and would protect their rights, adding: “China welcomes fair competition … China will continue to expand market access. China will continue to strengthen IPO protection and do more to increase imports.”

Xi also defended the Belt and Road Initiative – an ambitious transcontinental infrastructure project – following faced increasing criticism that will trap poorer countries into unsustainable levels of debt.

“It is guided by collaboration for the shared benefit of the international community, not designed to serve any hidden political agendas,” the Chinese president told delegates, announcing a belt and road summit in Beijing in April.

“It does not cause a debt trap as some have labelled it. Rather it is a transparent project that brings common development to the world.”

Xi’s latest comments come as he prepares for his meeting with Trump at the G20 summit in Argentina at the end of the month.

Overnight, Trump said he was optimistic about resolving the trade dispute with China after receiving a response to his demands from Beijing.

“China wants to make a deal,” Trump said. “They sent a list of things they are willing to do, which is a large list and it is just not acceptable to me yet. But at some point I think that, we are doing extremely well with respect to China.”

Trump says US is ‘doing extremely well’ with China but deal not done yet

The US president is not attending the Apec summit, sending Vice-President Mike Pence in his place.

But Pence, who is flying in from Australia every day rather than staying in the host nation, was not present for Xi’s speech.

Screens in the media centre showed his convoy leaving Jacksons International Airport in Port Moresby as Xi began his speech.

Pence addressed the conference after Xi had finished speaking, but the Chinese president did not to listen to his speech.

Despite Trump’s absence the United States says it is committed to developing an “Indo-Pacific” strategy to counter China’s growing influence.

As part of that strategy, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced US$300 million funding for security cooperation in the region in August.

This is in addition to the US$113 million economic initiatives US has also unveiled in investment in digital economy, energy and infrastructure.

The Apec economies account for 60 per cent of global gross domestic product and 47 per cent of global trade, according to the group’s statistics.