President Donald Trump and his opposite number in China, Xi Jinping, set out vastly different trade ambitions during a summit of Asian leaders in Vietnam Friday, indicating the two may not be as close in terms of broader economic ambitions as this week's state visit in Beijing would suggest.
Speaking at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference in Danang, Trump vowed to make bi-lateral deals based on "fair and reciprocal" trade agreements while Xi stressed that the tide of globalisation was "irreversible" and urged the creation of an open Asia-Pacific economic bloc to facilitate regional and global commerce.
"We are seeing a profound change in economic globalisation," Xi said during a keynote address that followed the President's. "It has become an irreversible historic trend ... we should make it more open, more inclusive, more balanced, more equitable and more beneficial to all." He also added that adapting to "developments of a global nature", including climate change, "has become the international consensus".
That thesis contrasts sharply with that of President Trump, who has not only called climate change a "hoax" but has also suggested it's part of a broader Chinese plot to dominate world trade.
On trade, Trump also appeared to move in a different direction to Xi, issuing a caveat to new trade agreements based on bi-lateral, rather than regional or global, interests.
"The United States is prepared to work with each of the leaders in this room today to achieve mutually beneficial commerce that is in the interest of both your countries and mine. That is the message I am here to deliver," Trump said. "When the United States enters into a trading relationship with other countries or other peoples, we will from now on expect that our partners will faithfully follow the rules."
"We are not going to let the United States be taken advantage of anymore," Trump vowed.
The divergent views offer a fascinating prism from which to view the results of a two-day state visit in Beijing which ended with around $250 in new commercial contracts and investments and the opening of China's financial sector to deeper foreign investment.
APEC leaders have been attempting to galvanise their stance on trade following Trump's decision to leave the Trans Pacific Partnership arrangement earlier this year in favor of an "America First" economic policy.
However, the President used his speech to hit out, yet again, at swelling U.S. trade deficits and what he described as "unbalanced" agreements between Asian nations and Washington.
China's trade surplus with the United States slipped from a record high last month, according to official data published earlier this week, but still rose past $300 billion over the first 10 months of the year.
China's customs office said total exports from the word's second largest economy grew an annual 6.9% last month, slowing from the 8.1% pace recorded in September. Import growth, however, was impressively strong at 17.2%, although again slower than the 18.1% pace notched in the previous month.
The figures also reveal a 37.8% increase in China exports to the United States which, when set against an 11.1% rise in imports translates to a trade surplus of $26.6 billion. That's down from last month's record high of $28 billion but still puts the year-to-date tally at just over $300 billion - more than $12 billion head of last year's pace, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
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