For the first time in the last so many months, US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping shared an online international summit. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, an annual gathering of 21 Pacific economies, was held through video-conferencing this year due to the Corona Virus pandemic. The grouping accounts for about 60% of global GDP.
The Summit was held on Friday evening. President Trump, who had not attended the summit since 2017, took a surprise decision to take part in this year’s event. Experts were taken aback by his presence because he is on his way out. He kept himself largely away when there was need for greater US participation in such multilateral summits. After the United States began withdrawing from multilateral meetings during the Trump Administration, China is playing a pivotal role in the world body.
Chinese President Xi Jinping targeted US protectionism at the summit. In his speech, he called for the establishment of an “Asia-Pacific free trade zone at an early date.” He was of the view that countries should defend multilateralism. He stressed that China is in favour of joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement which includes the Pacific Rim countries of Japan, Canada and Mexico but not the United States.
Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin played the part of this year’s host. Talking about the US-China trade war, he said that it has ‘been eclipsed’ by the Corona Virus pandemic. He said in the meeting that the trade war between the two powers had come in the way of talks in the past. Given the situation this year, he said that APEC’s focus was on quickening economic recovery and developing a vaccine for the disease. It needs to be mentioned that growth in the Asia-Pacific is expected to slump 2.7% this year in comparison to the 3.6% growth in 2019. This fall is attributed to the spread of COVID-19.