Apec summit: Mike Pence warns of China's ‘constricting belt’ and ‘one-way road’

Suhaimi Abdullah  Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping is first out of the line to distance himself from other world leaders as the Apec summit broke up on Sunday.

In a sign of nations seeking to counter China's influence in the strategic Pacific region where Papua New Guinea is located, the US, Japan, Australia and New Zealand yesterday said they will jointly fund a US$1.7 billion (RM7.12 billion) plan to increase electricity supply from 13 per cent of PNG's eight million-strong population now to 70 per cent by 2030.

The 21 nations at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Port Moresby struggled to bridge differences on the role of the World Trade Organization, which governs global trade.

"Let them fight it out.those are the issues that concern them", Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi told news agency Reuters in an interview in Port Moresby.

Pence's warning on Saturday contrasted with remarks made by Trump on Friday, when he said he may not impose more tariffs after China sent the United States a list of measures it was willing to take to resolve trade tensions.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit ended in disarray on Sunday after leaders failed to agree on a joint statement, reflecting tensions after Trump threatened to add to tariffs already in place on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods.

While all 21 leaders agreed on the majority of the leaders' communique, there were a few paragraphs the U.S. and China would not budge on. Those comments helped USA stocks erase losses, as investors bet on whether Trump will impose even more tariffs on Chinese goods than the $250 billion already in place.

The two-day summit was punctuated by acrimony and also underlined a rising rivalry between China and the West for influence in the usually neglected South Pacific, where Beijing has been wooing impoverished island states with aid and loans.

The collapse of the summit, staged in impoverished Papua New Guinea at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, much of it covered by China, followed duelling speeches from President Xi of China and Mike Pence, the United States vice-president.

Mr Pence professed respect for Mr Xi and China but also harshly criticised the world's No 2 economy for intellectual property theft, forced technology transfers and unfair trading practices.

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"Not a single developing country has been mired in debt difficulties because of its cooperation with China. Those matters can be raised at the World Trade Organization".

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said APEC was a "disappointing" lost opportunity to bring China and the USA together.

Issues of trade - particularly reform of the World Trade Organisation, along with tariffs, intellectual property and artificial intelligence - are understood to have been the sticking points.

The US is interested in a better relationship "but there has to be change" from China's side, Mr Pence said he told Mr Xi, who responded saying that dialogue is important.

He urged countries to work with the U.S. instead, saying the USA did not "coerce, corrupt or compromise your independence".

"The assistance provided by China has been warmly welcomed by our partners in this region and beyond", Wang Xiaolong, a foreign ministry official, told a news conference.

A statement would be issued by the meeting's chair, Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill, instead.

Al Jazeera's Andrew Thomas, reporting from Port Moresby, said the lack of a communique marked a dramatic end to the summit.

Rimbink Pato refused to meet them.

During his trip to China last month - the first official visit to the country by a Japanese leader in almost seven years - he agreed with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to create a new framework to jointly move ahead with infrastructure projects in third countries.

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