Xi: We will avoid decoupling despite tensions

President Xi Jinping pledged that China wouldn’t engage in decoupling, in an address to Asia-Pacific leaders in Kuala Lumpur just days after the region inaugurated the world’s largest free-trade agreement.

Xi’s speech during Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summits on Thursday came as the world await clues on how US President-elect Joe Biden will approach the region. The White House declined to say on Wednesday whether President Donald Trump plans to address the gathering in Malaysia, held virtually this year because of the pandemic.

“We will not reverse course or run against the historical trend by decoupling or forming a small circle to keep others out,” Xi said by video. “Opening up to the outside world is a basic national policy, and it will not waver at any time.”

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said after Xi that a US government led by Biden was more likely to adopt a multilateral approach to trade that was supportive of existing international institutions and forums. Lee, whose city-state is dependent on trade as well as US security support, took a swipe Trump’s at “America First” economic policies.

“They have not been supportive of trade as a win-win proposition,” Lee said. “The attitude of the Trump administration is that this is a win-lose proposition: ‘If I have a trade surplus with you, that is good for me. If I have a trade deficit with you, that is bad for me.’ Trade is not like that.”

Prime Ministers Scott Morrison of Australia, Yoshihide Suga of Japan and Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand were among those expected to speak.

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