DUBLIN — Chinese President Xi Jinping told Asia-Pacific leaders – including US President Donald Trump – on Friday that Beijing will “give positive consideration to the idea of joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).”
The CPTPP is the revised version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a regional trade deal promoted by the US during the 2008-16 Obama administration.
The US withdrew from the TPP shortly after Trump took office in early 2017, prompting the 11 other signatories to rewrite the agreement, which Britain is also interested in joining.
Xi and Trump were taking part in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, which is being hosted by Malaysia, but taking place by video link due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Having last attended APEC in 2017, Trump was a surprise participant at the meeting, which was chaired by Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
Muhyiddin said that the pandemic “has had a lasting impact” on trade, but added that APEC intends to “reaffirm our support for the rules-based multilateral trading system” which he described as “essential for business.”
The US under Trump has sought to push back against “unfair” terms of trade, prioritizing bilateral deals over broader arrangements such as the TPP.
Xi on Friday told APEC leaders that “economic cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region is never a zero-sum political game in which one’s loss is another’s gain, but a platform for mutually beneficial development.”
Last weekend, Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea joined the 10 member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
Though it omits agriculture and non-tariff barriers, the RCEP deal has been labelled “the world’s biggest trade pact” – despite the absence of the world’s biggest economy, the US.
Among the other leaders taking part in Friday’s APEC summit were Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japan’s new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
The 21 leaders agreed on a joint declaration that seems to balance the Chinese and US stances on trade – saying the group aims to “recognise the importance of a free, open, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent and predictable trade and investment environment to drive economic recovery at such a challenging time.”
The White House has not yet released any information about the president’s comments at the summit.
Muhyiddin’s opening remarks were broadcast live on local television, but coverage stopped once he had finished. The host website appeared to crash at around the same time.
The event could prove to be Trump’s final chance to push back at Xi, who on Thursday touted China’s “major strategic achievement” to both “contain the virus and speedily bring production and life back to normal.”
Though Trump praised Xi the last time the two leaders spoke – which was by telephone – in March, he has since blamed Beijing for what he has repeatedly termed “the Chinese virus.”
According to official data collated by Johns Hopkins University, the novel coronavirus has infected more than 11.7 million Americans and led to more than 250,000 deaths – the most of any country.Show