Conflicting visions of international trade from the leaders of the world’s two largest economies were on display at the APEC summit on Friday. The American president, Donald Trump, signaled further his country’s retreat into protectionism. The words of China’s president, Xi Jinping, by contrast gave a sense of how his country is taking over the mantle as the leader of global free trade.
Trump at Xi arrived at the summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, following Trump’s state visit to Beijing. The American president had been lavishly received and spoke in glowing terms of his relationship with his host. But on Friday Trump told the other leaders in attendance that they should put their own countries first. He said the United States would no longer endure “unfair” trade agreements that he said concede sovereignty.
President Xi on the other hand said China would continue to open up to outside. He welcomed cooperation on his government’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative. Xi said he hoped negotiations towards the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) pact would conclude as early as possible.
The RCEP was initially seen as China’s counterweight to the US-proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact. But Trump ditched the pact shortly after taking office in January this year.