Billionaire media mogul Michael Bloomberg’s new forum of business and political leaders that aims to rival the annual gathering in Davos, Switzerland will be relocated outside China because of “scheduling conflicts”.
Organisers of the New Economy Forum – aimed at improving understanding between China and the United States – had planned to hold the event in Beijing in early November, in partnership with influential think tank the China Centre for International Economic Exchanges (CCIEE).
But the CCIEE asked for the forum to be moved to autumn next year because of “a growing number of scheduling conflicts in China this year”, Bloomberg said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that the event will instead be held in Singapore on November 6 and 7.
The city state was chosen as host due to “its position as one of the world’s leading international and business hubs”, the statement said.
A senior official with the CCIEE said the event would have clashed with the China International Import Expo being held from November 5 to 10 in Shanghai – an event seen by Chinese leaders as important for showing Beijing’s determination to open up, especially against the backdrop of the escalating trade war with the US.
The official said the organiser had made the decision to change the location, and that the CCIEE was “researching” whether or not it would continue to be involved in holding the forum, but he denied that the move had been prompted by fallout from the trade war.
That dispute has already seen Beijing and Washington impose 25 per cent tariffs on US$50 billion of each other’s goods, and the US is working on a list of another US$200 billion of Chinese products that may be subject to punitive duties from early September. China has retaliated with a threat of further tariffs on US$60 billion of American goods.
The Import Expo is one of the events the Chinese government is hosting to mark the 40th anniversary of the country’s reform and opening up in autumn. Beijing has refused to make compromises as it spars with Washington, insisting that it will continue to make reforms at its own pace – though it has said it would expand imports to address US concerns about their huge trade gap.
Bloomberg, a former New York mayor and critic of US President Donald Trump’s China policy, announced in May that he would launch the forum, with a focus on China’s rise and impact on the global stage which has been seen by many as a challenge to US dominance.
Among the other big names behind the forum are Henry Kissinger, former US secretary of state and national security adviser, and former US Treasury secretary Henry Paulson – both of whom are believed to have their voices heard by leaders in Beijing, especially Chinese President Xi Jinping.
But Kissinger, who is known for the tactic of establishing diplomatic ties with Beijing in the 1970s to isolate the Soviet Union, surprised Beijing last month by suggesting Trump work with Russia to contain China’s rise.
Bloomberg, meanwhile, has voiced his opposition to Trump’s policy of using tariffs against other countries including China, saying it may hurt the economy, employment and innovation. Earlier media reports have suggested he may run for US president in 2020.
The forum will “address the opportunities and challenges created by a growing shift in wealth and power to the rising economies of Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America”, the statement said, with a key focus on discussing “solutions to the great challenges of our time in areas from trade to climate change and finance”.
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