Australia caught in the middle of US-China trade war — APEC

APRIL 2017           Vice President Mike Pence visits Hawaii. Pence is making a pitstop in Honolulu on Sunday

For the first time, leaders of 21 Asia-Pacific economies have failed to issue a joint communique, as tensions between the United States and China over trade and investment poisoned their annual summit.

An acrimonious meeting of world leaders in Papua New Guinea failed to agree Sunday on a final communique, highlighting widening divisions between global powers the US and China.

US Vice President Mike Pence traded sharp barbs with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in back-to-back speeches at a regional summit, showing that neither country appears to be giving ground in an escalating trade war.

He also criticised free trade that hurt developing countries and said regulations on personal data and intellectual property rights must benefit governments, not just large corporations or advanced economies. Xi urged the world to "say no to protectionism and unilateralism", warning it was a "short-sighted approach" that was "doomed to failure".

"I pointed out that one of the most important things in Apec is that while we are equal members of Apec, but we are not equal in terms of development".

The U.S. has this year imposed additional tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods and Beijing has retaliated with its own tariffs on U.S. products. A statement was to be issued instead by the meeting's chair, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill. And in a move likely to irritate Beijing, he also briefly met Taiwan's APEC representative.

Trump - and Russian President Vladimir Putin - both chose to skip the gathering, leaving the spotlight on Xi who arrived two days early to open a Chinese-funded school and road in Papua New Guinea's dirt-poor capital, Port Moresby. Xi opened a new road and a school in Port Moresby, where he was serenaded by dozens of people from various tribes sporting parrot feathers, possum pelts, and seashell necklaces.

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The US and China revealed competing visions for the region at the summit.

The Malaysian prime minister said information technology in less developed countries must be improved. "Do not accept foreign debt that could compromise your sovereignty", he said.

'Damaging' "By withdrawing from multilateral trade agreements and pursuing unilateral tit-for-tat tariffs that are damaging not just for the U.S. and China, but for the broader regional and global trading system, the Trump administration is putting itself at odds with America's Asian allies and partners", he said.

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

"The commitment of the United States of America to this region of the world has never been stronger", Pence said at a signing ceremony. He called for a stronger World Trade Organization and defended his signature Belt-and-Road Initiative, saying it's "not a trap as some people have labeled it". And the Chinese leader warned that no one would gain from heightened tensions between the U.S. and Beijing.

"History has shown that confrontation, whether in the form of a cold war, a hot war or a trade war, will produce no winners", Xi said to applause.

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 worldwide trade.

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