Asia Minute: U.S. China Trade After APEC

Nov 20, 2018

President Donald J. Trump and President Xi Jinping | July 8, 2017 (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
Credit Shealah Craighead / The White House

The politics of trade remain a top priority for the Trump Administration, and that is having an impact on the rest of the Asia Pacific. Vice President Mike Pence represented the United States at the recent APEC meetings, which in many ways set the stage for another international gathering later this month.

The next round of Asia Pacific trade diplomacy — or rhetoric — will take place in Argentina. That’s the site of the Group of 20 leaders’ summit, due to get underway in about a week and a half.

President Trump is scheduled to be there, and to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

President Xi is currently in the Philippines — following the leaders’ meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

Unlike every other APEC meeting going back to the group’s creation nearly thirty years ago, this one produced no joint communique.

APEC is at its heart a trade-oriented group that traditionally operates on consensus – it’s a looser confederation than a relationship such as a military alliance. For example, it’s one of the few international groupings that includes both mainland China and Taiwan.

And trade apparently was the sticking point for any joint communique this year.

The New Zealand Herald reports one disagreement came down to a single sentence in the proposed document that would have said: “We agreed to fight protectionism, including all unfair trade practices.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping
Credit Пресс-служба Президента Российской Федерации /

The Herald says China refused to agree to that – believing that sentence singled out the Beijing government for criticism.

The next discussion of language — and trade — will be in Argentina.