President Xi Jinping pegged China as the pivot point for global free trade on Thursday, vowing to keep his huge economy open and warning against protectionism.
Buoyed by the signing of the world’s largest trade pact over the weekend, Xi said the Asia-Pacific is the “forerunner driving global growth” in a world hit by “multiple challenges” including the pandemic.
He vowed “openness” to trade and refuted any possibility of the “decoupling” of the world’s second largest economy — in his only comments nodding to the hostile trade policy of Donald Trump’s US administration, which has battered China with tariffs and tech restrictions.
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, held online this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, brings together 21 Pacific Rim countries including the world’s two biggest economies, accounting for about 60 percent of global GDP.
Trump, wounded by his election loss to Joe Biden, did not take part in the summit or send a high level delegate in his place.
In a speech that veered into triumphalism over China’s economic “resilience and vitality” in coming back from the virus, which started in the central city of Wuhan, Xi warned countries who insist on trade barriers that “seclusion” will hold growth back.
The APEC gathering comes a week after China and 14 other Asia-Pacific countries signed the world’s largest free-trade deal.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which excludes the US, is viewed as a major coup for China and further evidence that Beijing is setting the agenda for global commerce as Washington retreats.