Trump to attend APEC summit after having ceded limelight to China

The new Biden administration is expected to pursue a more inclusive approach to trade.

Kayla Wong | November 19, 2020, 01:27 PM

United States President Donald Trump will be attending a virtual APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit this week, a U.S. official told Reuters.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will also be going for the same APEC leaders' meeting on Friday, Nov. 20, which is hosted by Malaysia.

Trump last took part in the APEC forum in 2017, which was the first and only time he attended it.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence had attended the summit the following year, where he traded barbs with Xi in their speeches.

On Thursday, Nov. 19, however, the summit took place without the U.S. participating in it.

Addressing other Asia-Pacific leaders at the forum, Xi vowed that China would not engage in decoupling.

U.S. not included in largest trade deal involving China

The U.S. was recently left out of RCEP, the largest free trade agreement signed by 15 Asia-Pacific countries last Sunday, Nov. 15, after eight years of negotiation.

The trading bloc, which includes China, has a combined 2.2 billion people that cover almost a third of global economy.

Responding to the signing of the deal, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said on Monday, Nov. 16, that it was concerned the country was being left behind.

The deal is said to be a geopolitical win for China, especially since the U.S., under Trump, has pulled out of another trade deal called the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) in 2017.

It is also an indication that perhaps the region has moved on without the U.S. being involved.

While former President Barack Obama had championed the TPP as a hedge against China, Trump backed out from the pact within days of taking office, and proceeded to launch a trade war with China.

U.S. under Biden might take a more multilateral approach

But the U.S., under a different president, might pursue a more multilateral approach to manage its relations with China.

When asked if the U.S. should join RCEP, President-elect Joe Biden replied that the country must align itself with "other democracies" so they can write the rules governing global trade, and not let China dictate it, NPR reported.

PM Lee: Trade is win-win for all parties

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, speaking after Xi on Nov. 19, also said a U.S. led by Biden is more likely to support a foreign policy that makes use of existing multilateral structures.

Appearing to make a veiled remark directed at Trump, PM Lee said while the Trump administration's attitude towards trade was that it is "a win-lose proposition", it is "not like that", Bloomberg reported.

Instead, trade is a "win-win", he asserted.

PM Lee continued to say that Singapore would have to see how the new Biden administration approaches the issue, after they take over the White House from the Trump administration, which "is still in charge until Jan. 20", The Straits Times reported.

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