The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit ended on a failed note owing to a dispute regarding the authority over the nations in the Pacific region.
The summit ended in Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea on Sunday without a formal joint statement for the first time in history. The power tussle between America and China is the reason for the summit ending in uncertainty. The disputes over revamping the antiquated trade agreement by the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) launched by China interconnecting three continents namely Asia, Africa and Europe and the move by the US and the APEC nations to put a rein on China are the reasons for the failed summit. Although Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’ Neill announced that he would issue a communique instead of a joint statement, as the host country, it has also failed. Neill who openly said that the summit ended on a discordant note, has no idea about resolving the problem.
The growth and progress of China on a daily basis gives much headache to President Donald Trump who fights adventurously to retain America’s invincible supremacy at any cost with the slogan ‘America First’. China believes that the US attempts to weaken its growing influence in the region by curbing trade transaction, technology and industrial sectors and proportionately increasing the import tariffs. US has so far levied import duty on more than 7,000 Chinese products worth 250 bn dollars. In a retaliatory move, China too imposed a duty on US products worth 60 bn dollars. Beijing has been moving ahead with a self-reliant initiative called ‘Make in China 2025’ equivalent to America. It is true that the fight between both the nations has been inflicting serious wounds on the world economy. That was the reason why the observers believed APEC to be a golden opportunity to break the ice between the two parties. However, US president Donald Trump or Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, another world power, did not attend the summit. Chinese leader Xi Jinping took part in the summit and was actively involved with the leaders in the region whom he wanted to win over. At the same time, he openly expressed his unwillingness to bow down before the intransigence of America and its allies. American vice president Mike Pence who announced that the trade sanctions on China would continue to exist, put forth a condition that China should change its decision.
However, Chinese leader Xi Jinping retorted that what impeded global economic growth was the unilateral and partisan approach of US and its allies. While the American block argues that outdated laws of commercial transactions and restrictions should be reformed in tune with the times, China is of the firm stance that it will not allow it. What America and Australia, which have made Pacific region their monopoly, and their allies Japan and European Union are unable to see eye to eye, is the new influence China has acquired. Sri Lanka has already opened its main southern port of Hambantota for commercial activities. And in Papua New Guinea, the host country of APEC summit, China has made large scale investments. The US fear is that the edge this may give to China may propel it to set its eyes on the US naval base in Guam. Anticipating this, America and Australia are coming together to build a military base in the Manus island, which used to be a US base during the Second World War, in Panua New Guinea. They are also making some strategic moves using Taiwan as a pawn, which China treats as part of the mainland country. Thus, it is the phenomenon of China making huge investments for infrastructure installations and development in a region which they had historically dominated, that irritates countries like America, Australia and Japan.
US Vice President had given a call at the summit that no loan should be accepted forsaking sovereignty, that freedom has to be preserved and that the position all nations should take is own country first', like America. The concern of the western alliance is that through the Belt and Road Plan, linking southern and mid-west Asia, Europe, and African countries via land and sea, China will encircle the strategic zone of Pacific Sea. But China assures that this plan, declared in 2013, is not intended to exclude any country, and there would not be a policy of untouchability towards non-members. Caught in this tug-of-war, ‘victim nations' have adopted a policy of utilizing whatever aid they can get from either side. America has declared at the summit that it will uphold the neutrality of the skies and seas for the prosperity of the world. They themselves, and the world very well know whose this freedom is, that does not allow anyone to dominate. It is with a restatement of that stand that APEC concluded with no accord.