KATHARINE MURPHY | Guardian Australia | Extract
SYDNEY - The APEC summit has been unable to produce a joint communiqué because of tensions between the US and China over trade and security issues which flared throughout the gathering of regional leaders.
While Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, had struck an upbeat note as APEC drew to a close, declaring that Washington and Beijing were getting closer to resolving a trade war that threatens economic growth in the region, the Port Moresby summit failed to reach consensus on a concluding statement because of differences between the major powers.
The APEC summit saw Australia, Japan and the US push back against Chinese efforts to use spending through the Belt and Road initiative to gain influence in the Pacific.
The US also issued a pointed warning about the dangers of Pacific nations compromising their sovereignty by accepting high levels of debt through infrastructure loans.
There was also muscling up with military facilities. Australia and the US have agreed to construct the Lombrum naval base on Manus Island – a port China had expressed interest in developing – and the US vice-president, Mike Pence, made it clear that shipping lanes needed to remain open.
As well as the unresolved tensions about security and economic issues on display at the Port Moresby summit, the ABC also reported there was a diplomatic incident involving a group of Chinese officials who attempted to force their way in to the office of the Papua New Guinean foreign minister, Rimbink Pato, after being denied a meeting on Saturday afternoon.
The report said the Chinese officials wanted a discussion with Pato about the wording of the communiqué to be released at the conclusion of the summit, and security was called, before the group left.
PNG’s prime minister, Peter O’Neill was clear about the cause of the breakdown in consensus on Sunday night, referring to “the two big giants in the room”.
He said the dispute prevented the release of a communiqué centred on “reform of the World Trade Organization”. O’Neill said WTO issues were outside APEC’s remit: “Those matters can be raised at the World Trade Organisation.”