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There are no winners in wars, whether ‘hot’, ‘cold’ or in trade, Chinese President Xi Jinping said today (Saturday, November 17), at a business conference ahead of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

“History has shown that confrontation — whether in form of cold war, hot war or trade war — will produce no winners,” Xi said. The US-China trade war is expected to dominate the APEC summit in Papua New Guinea.

Jinping also defended China’s ‘Belt and Road’ infrastructure initiative, insisting it was “not a trap” amid criticism from the United States among others.

“It is not designed to serve any hidden geopolitical agenda, it is not targeted against anyone and it does not exclude anyone… nor is it a trap as some people have labelled it,” Xi told business leaders.

Xi called for nations to uphold a rules-based order led by the World Trade Organization. Xi said the world should “uphold the WTO-centred multilateral trading system, make economic globalisation more open, inclusive, balanced and beneficial to all.”

“Attempts to erect barriers and cut close economic ties work against the laws of economics and the trends of history. This is a short-sighted approach and it is doomed to failure,” Xi told business leaders on the sidelines of the summit. We should say no to protectionism and unilateralism,” Xi said, in a veiled swipe at the ‘America First’ policies of Donald Trump’s administration, warning that those who close their doors “will only cut himself off from the rest of the world and lose his direction.”

Protectionism and unilateralism were overshadowing global growth, and a policy of erecting economic barriers was doomed to fail, Xi said.

US Vice President Mike Pence – who spoke at the forum directly after Xi – said the tariffs were a response to the “imbalance” with China. The US has so far imposed tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese imports. In retaliation, China has slapped tariffs on $110 billion in imports from the U.S. and effectively shut off its purchase of key American agricultural exports including soybeans.

“The United States, though, will not change course until China changes its ways,” he said.

Pence later said he was prepared to “more than double” the tariffs imposed on Chinese goods. His comments come a day after President Donald Trump told reporters he was confident a deal between China and the US “will be made”.

However, he said a number of key issues had not been included on a list for negotiation ahead of next month’s G20 summit in Argentina, meaning it was “not acceptable” yet to the president.

The president has made similar comments previously.

Pence began his speech by saying the US commitment to the Indo-Pacific had never been stronger. He criticized infrastructure funding that saddled developing nations with debt and took a swipe at China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

“The United States offers a better option. We don’t drown our partners in a sea of debt,” he said. “We don’t offer a constricting belt or a one-way road.”

Xi defended his country’s massive ‘Belt and Road’ infrastructure initiative amid attacks that it is akin to ‘chequebook diplomacy’ to further Chinese interests in the region.

“It is not designed to serve any hidden geopolitical agenda, it is not targeted against anyone and it does not exclude anyone… nor is it a trap as some people have labelled it,” he said.

APEC members the US and China have become embroiled in a trade war that experts warn could be catastrophic for the global economy, with the world’s top two powers going head to head.

Both the countries have imposed tariffs worth billions of dollars of each other’s goods and there is little sign of an immediate easing in tensions, with both sides threatening to step up action if necessary.

US President Donald Trump has decided to skip the APEC summit, which some critics say has left the stage free for China to bolster its influence in the region.

In contrast to Trump, Xi arrived two days before the summit, opening a new road and a school in Port Moresby and holding talks with Pacific Island leaders.

In the absence of Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the summit has been relatively low key and the focus has turned to the venue Port Moresby.

Officially, the 21 leaders from Asia-Pacific countries will discuss improving regional economic cooperation under the theme of “embracing the digital future” but trade tensions are likely to dominate.

Foreign ministers meeting ahead of the summit were unable to publish a joint statement, apparently due to differences over language on World Trade Organization reform.

The capital of Papua New Guinea has been ranked as one of the least liveable cities for ex-pats, with a high level of crime, often perpetrated by feared street gangs known as “raskols”.

Delegates have been advised not to venture out alone — especially after dark — and officials and journalists have been hosted on massive cruise ships moored in the harbour due to safety issues and a dearth of hotel rooms.

The run-up to the summit was also overshadowed by the purchase of 40 luxury Maserati cars which sparked anger in the poverty-hit country which suffers from chronic healthcare and social problems.

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