The 2018 APEC summit in Papua New Guinea was unable to produce its traditional joint communique at the end of the summit for the first time in history due to disagreement over the future of multilateral trade.
Summit organizers will release a formal closing statement for the regional APEC forum in the coming days, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said on Sunday, as the 21-member body was unable to agree on the communique, Reuters reported.
In his closing comments to the forum, O’Neill said the group was trying to ensure «free and open» trade by 2020. Earlier on Sunday, O’Neil said that countries could not achieve consensus because of “the two big giants in the room,” cited by the Guardian.
O’Neill, who was chairman of the meeting, also pointed out that the sticking point was over whether the mention of the World Trade Organization and its possible reform should be in the Leaders’ Declaration.
“APEC has got no charter over the World Trade Organization, that is a fact. Those matters can be raised at the World Trade Organization,” he said, cited by Reuters.
Zhang Shaogang, director-general of China’s international department at the Ministry of Commerce, said that Papua New Guinea, which hosted the summit, will issue a ‘chairman’s statement,’ cited by Reuters.
During the APEC summit, Australia, Japan and the US resisted Chinese efforts to use spending through Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative to gain influence in the Pacific.
Mike Pence, the US Vice President, criticized Chinese President Xi Jinping for Belt and Road initiative as well as for territorial demands in the disputed maritime territories in East China and South China Seas.
Pence continued his tirade against Beijing by refuting the ongoing trade war and threatened to double tariffs. The Trump administration previously issued a pointed warning about the dangers of other Pacific nations compromising their sovereignty by accepting foreign infrastructure loans from China.
During the summit, Pence announced that the US and Australia had agreed to construct the Lombrum naval base on Manus Island – a port China had previously expressed interest in developing
On Sunday, the US, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia said they would invest $1.7 billion in the Papuan economy to help the country develop a modern electric power grid – concurrent to Chinese investment in the region.
As of 2018, China has invested some $1.8 billion in the economies of the Pacific islands, out of which $632 million was invested in Papua New Guinea.