BIPP: Trump and Xi set two different tones at Pacific Rim Summit

Yiwei Wang, Contributing Writer

President Donald Trump delivered a speech at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam to Pacific Rim leaders on Nov. 10, in which he said that the United States will no longer be taken advantage of. More specifically, Trump expressed his concern about the trade imbalances between the United States and Asian countries, especially China.

Prior to his stop at the summit, Trump commented on U.S. trade with China in Beijing.

“Trade between China and the U.S. has not been over recent years very fair for the U.S. We must immediately address the unfair practices that drove [our trade] deficit along with barriers to market access,” Trump said.

The statistics provided by Goldman Sachs show that the trade imbalance, which is caused by disproportionate imports and exports between two countries, has increased staggeringly over time. China is exporting more goods to the United States while accepting less U.S. goods as imports. At the summit, Trump also expressed his skepticism of the fairness of a multilateral agreement, which is usually agreed among three or more parties.

After pulling the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) this past January, Trump said at the summit that he will “make bilateral trade agreements with any Indo-Pacific nation that wants to be our partner and will abide by the principles of fair and reciprocal trade. What we will no longer do is enter into large agreements that will tie our hands, surrender our sovereignty and make meaningful enforcement practically impossible.” Therefore, it’s unlikely that the United States will enter into a major multilateral trade agreement soon.

While many leaders of the Asian economy also attended the meeting, China was the center focus. Unlike Trump, China President Xi Jinping delivered a speech in which he called for more effort in enhancing multilateral trade relationships and pursuing more and closer regional partnerships.

“Should we steer economic globalization, or should we dither and stall in the face of challenge?” Xi said. “Here’s my answer: we must advance with the trend of the times and live up to our responsibility.”

The sharp contrast between the two presidents again highlights the differences in U.S. and Chinese economic policy. For a long time, China has been trying to promote regional economic partnership with its distinctive Belt and Road economic initiative, which is a multilateral effort to revive the ancient Silk Road trade route that starts in Asia and traces across Europe. The aim of the initiative is encourage investment in Asian and European economy under the Chinese shared growth economy model.

The initiative is quite popular among the countries that are part of the strategy. Finance Minister of Pakistan Ishaq Dar said in May that “vision of economic and financial connectivity within the region and beyond and the One Belt and One Road and CPEC would help translate the idea of connectivity into reality.”

Globalization and multilateral partnership is at the center of the Chinese economy development strategy, and the Communist Party of China expressed its intent to guide trade relations and development with countries in Asia-Pacific.

The future economic growth of Asia-Pacific heavily depends on the smooth intra-cooperation among all countries. Shared growth will be regarded as the fundamental growth strategy for Asia-Pacific. However, it will be interesting to see how the United States and China work together to achieve a resolution that overcomes their major differences in economic policies.

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