Beijing says site for rescheduled Apec summit should be decided by consensus

Wendy Wu

The decision on where to hold a rescheduled Apec leaders meeting should be based on mutual agreement, China said on Friday, after a report that the United States had offered to co-host the event with Chile on American soil.

“As a principle, we believe that any issue related to Apec [Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation] should respect the host country and should abide by the principle of consultation and consensus,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in Beijing.

“We have been keeping in touch with all related sides and following the development of the situation.”

The summit, which was scheduled to be held in Santiago next weekend, was cancelled because of social unrest in the Chilean capital. The event would have had particular significance for China and the US as Presidents Xi Jinping and Donald Trump were expected to use it as a backdrop for the signing of a “phase one” deal aimed at easing tensions in their 16-month trade war.

Suggestions that the US and Chile might jointly hold the event came from a Reuters report on Thursday that cited a senior but unnamed US official.

The same day, Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said he was told by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the US was considering hosting the Apec summit in January but that Malaysia did not support the idea. Kuala Lumpur is set to host an Apec leaders’ summit later in 2020.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said on Thursday that China and the US had agreed to remove additional tariffs on each other’s goods once Xi and Trump signed the phase-one deal. When that meeting will actually take place remains unclear but the US has been upbeat on the issue.

A White House adviser said Donald Trump was “anxious” to sign a trade deal with China. Photo: EPA-EFE

Senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said on Thursday that Trump was “anxious” to sign the agreement, while White House spokesman Stephanie Grisham said the US was “very, very optimistic” about reaching a deal soon.

Tao Wenzhao, a researcher at the Institute of American Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the United States’ offer to co-host the Apec summit might have been an attempt to make up for Trump’s absence at the East Asia Summit – which wrapped up in Thailand on Monday – as it had caused some discontent among other participants.

A scaled-back US delegation at the Thai meeting was led by newly appointed national security adviser Robert O’Brien and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

“In the face of an impeachment investigation, Trump is keen to offset all the negative attention he’s getting,” Tao said.

“The [rescheduled Apec] event would also provide an opportunity for China and the US to sign the phase-one deal and that would be of benefit to both of them.”

Donald Trump was conspicuous by his absence at the East Asia Summit, which wrapped up on Monday in Thailand. Photo: AFP

Wang Yong, a professor of international relations at Peking University, said that as a major Asia-Pacific power, the US had a responsibility to promote economic cooperation in the region.

“China and the US are close to finalising a [phase-one] deal, including finding an appropriate place to sign it, and they now have a window to do that,” he said.

“The US’ proposal to co-host the event with Chile would help it to maintain its influence in the region.”

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