He vowed “openness” to trade and rejected any possibility of “decoupling” the Chinese economy – in his only comments pointing to the hostile trade policy of the US administration of Donald Trump, which has hit China with tariffs and technological restrictions.The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum, in which Xi delivered his comments, was held online this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. It brings together 21 countries bordering the Pacific, including the world’s two largest economies, China and the United States, representing around 60% of global GDP.
It was not immediately clear whether Trump, hurt by his electoral loss to Joe Biden, would attend the summit or send a high-level delegate in his place.
In a speech that turned triumphalism over China’s economic “resilience and vitality” upon returning from the virus, Xi warned that countries that insist on trade barriers would suffer self-inflicted injuries.
“Openness allows a country to move forward while isolation holds it back,” he said.
“China will actively cooperate with all countries, regions and companies that wish to do so. We will continue to carry the banner of openness and cooperation high, ”Xi said.
Xi’s remarks may raise eyebrows in capitals where China has either restricted trade, imposed sudden lockdowns, or used its giant economy as a bargaining chip in larger geopolitical games.
In the Apec region, Australian exports, including beef, wine and barley, have been disrupted to their largest market in China, amid diplomatic rumbles over investigations into the origins of the pandemic and the allegations of espionage.
The Apec rally comes a week after China and 14 other Asia-Pacific countries signed the world’s largest free trade agreement.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which excludes the United States, is seen as a major coup for China and further proof that Beijing is setting the global trade agenda as Washington pulls out.
RCEP’s rival was the Trans-Pacific Partnership – backed by former Barack Obama – but Trump withdrew from it and the pact was replaced with a watered-down alternative that the United States did not adhere to.