US President Donald Trump, who continues to deny his defeat in the election, participates in the Asia-Pacific Economic Forum (APEC) meeting on Friday, succeeding his counterpart Xi Jinping who highlighted Chinese trade power.
• Read also: Apec summit: Xi Jinping praises China’s openness in trade
The summit, hosted by Malaysia, is taking place online this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It brings together the 21 countries of the Pacific Rim, including the world’s two largest economies, the United States and China, which represent some 60% of global GDP.
At the opening of the summit, President Xi Jinping on Thursday presented his country as the engine of world trade, and promised to “open even more the doors” of its national market.
Beijing has seen its role in APEC strengthened in recent years under the effect of Donald Trump’s “America first” policy and his withdrawal from multilateral institutions.
The American president has not participated in recent weeks in summits with Asian leaders from ASEAN.
His administration had remained unclear in recent days on the American participation in the Apec meeting, but a senior American official confirmed Thursday to AFP that President Trump would speak there Friday evening.
He is expected to address Forum leaders in a speech that will be largely closed to media, according to organizers in Malaysia.
Donald Trump has not attended Apec meetings since 2017, which was seen in Asia as a sign of disinterest.
The US president, who refuses to acknowledge his defeat against Democrat Joe Biden, seeks with this intervention to “give himself a + presidential + posture on the world stage”, estimated Oh Ei Sun, analyst at the Singapore Institute for Business international.
“Trump will, of course, want to take this opportunity to present himself as a sitting president and derive domestic political benefits from it,” he told AFP.
It should also “re-emphasize protectionism and the process that aims to prevent China from claiming the leading role in the free trade game.”
Don’t repeat mistakes
Since the November 3 ballot, Donald Trump has continued to assert, without proof, that the US presidential election and the vote count are tainted with fraud. His team has launched multiple legal actions as his supporters try to pressure local officials not to certify the vote counts.
The US president took a hard line with China during his tenure, imposing a series of tariff surcharges and barriers to its tech sector on the world’s second-largest economy, while Joe Biden’s administration is expected to take a more nuanced stance towards the China.
This Apec summit comes less than a week after the signing of the largest free trade agreement in the world between China and 14 other Asia-Pacific countries.
This Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), signed without India or the United States, is seen as a victory for Beijing, at the origin of the initiative and proof of the growing Chinese influence on trade rules. global.
The signatories hope the deal will help the economies wracked by the virus to recover, and several Apec leaders have warned against the temptation of protectionism.
“Trade has been the engine of Apec’s growth and prosperity since its inception 30 years ago,” said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. “Faced with the great economic challenges, we must not repeat the mistakes of history and take refuge in protectionism”.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga insisted on his side that “defining the rules for a free and fair world economy is of critical importance”.
Previous Apec meetings had been clouded by escalating trade tensions between Beijing and Washington. In 2018, at the last summit, the leaders of the Pacific Rim failed to agree on a joint declaration.