Port Moresby, Nov 18 (AP/UNB) — An acrimonious meeting of world leaders in Papua New Guinea failed to agree Sunday on a final communique, highlighting widening divisions between global powers China and the U.S.
The 21 nations at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Port Moresby struggled to bridge differences on the role of the World Trade Organization, which governs international trade, officials said. A statement was to be issued instead by the meeting's chair, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill.
"The entire world is worried" about tensions between China and the U.S., O'Neill told a mob of reporters that surrounded him after he confirmed there was no communique from leaders.
It was the first time leaders had failed to agree on a declaration in 29 years of the Pacific Rim summits that involve countries representing 60 percent of the world economy.
Draft versions of the communique seen by The Associated Press showed the U.S wanted strong language against unfair trade practices that it accuses China of. China, meanwhile, wanted a reaffirmation of opposition to protectionism and unilateralism that it says the U.S. is engaging in.
The U.S. has imposed additional tariffs of $250 billion on Chinese goods this year and Beijing has retaliated with its own tariffs on American exports.
"I don't think it will come as a huge surprise that there are differing visions" on trade, said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. "Those prevented there from being a full consensus on the communique."
The two-day summit was punctuated by acrimony and also underlined a rising rivalry between China and the West for influence in the usually neglected South Pacific, where Beijing has been wooing impoverished island states with aid and loans.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Chinese President Xi Jinping traded barbs in speeches on Saturday.
Pence professed respect for Xi and China but also harshly criticized the world's No. 2 economy for intellectual property theft, forced technology transfers and unfair trading practices. He accused China of luring developing nations into a debt trap through the loans it offers for infrastructure.
The world, according to Xi's speech, is facing a choice between cooperation and confrontation as protectionism and unilateralism grows. He said the rules of global institutions set up after World War II such as the World Trade Organization should not be bent for selfish agendas.
Pence told reporters that during the weekend he had two "candid" conversations with Xi, who is expected to meet President Donald Trump at a Group of 20 summit at the end of this month in Argentina.
"There are differences today," Pence said. "They begin with trade practices, with tariffs and quotas, forced technology transfers, the theft of intellectual property. It goes beyond that to freedom of navigation in the seas, concerns about human rights."
The U.S. is interested in a better relationship "but there has to be change" from China's side, Pence said he told Xi, who responded that dialogue is important.
China's foreign ministry rejected the U.S. criticism that it was leading other developing nations into debt bondage.
"The assistance provided by China has been warmly welcomed by our partners in this region and beyond," Wang Xiaolong, a foreign ministry official, told a news conference.
"No country either in this region or in other regions has fallen into a so called debt trap because of its cooperation with China. Give me one example," he said.
China is a relative newcomer to providing aid, and its loan-heavy, no-strings attached approach has unsettled Western nations that have been the mainstay donors to developing nations and often use aid to nudge nations towards reforms.
In Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea's capital, the impact of China's aid and loans is highly visible. But the U.S. and allies are countering with efforts to finance infrastructure in Papua New Guinea and other island states. The U.S. has also said it will be involved in ally Australia's plan to develop a naval base with Papua New Guinea.
On Sunday, the U.S., New Zealand, Japan and Australia said they'd work with Papua New Guinea's government to bring electricity to 70 percent of its people by 2030. Less than 20 percent have a reliable electricity supply.
"The commitment of the United States of America to this region of the world has never been stronger," Pence said at a signing ceremony. A separate statement from his office said other countries are welcome to join the electrification initiative provided they support the U.S. vision of a free and open Pacific.
China, meanwhile, has promised $4 billion of finance to build the the first national road network in Papua New Guinea, among the least urbanized countries in the world.
Paris, Nov 17 (AP/UNB) — One protester was killed and 47 others were injured during roadblocks set up around France to demonstrate against rising fuel taxes, a new challenge to embattled President Emmanuel Macron.
The protester was killed when a driver caught in traffic accelerated in a panic at Pont-de-Beauvoisin, near Chambery, said Louis Laugier, the prefect, or top state official, in the eastern Savoie region. According to various French media reports, the protesters reportedly knocked on her car as she tried to take her daughter to a hospital. An investigation was opened.
Police said that three of the 47 injured in separate incidents at the protests are in serious condition, according to the ministry. Officials said that 24 people have been detained and 17 held for questioning.
The Interior Ministry said that around 125,000 protesters were involved in about 2,000 demonstrations around France.
The Interior Ministry said security forces used tear gas in several places to unblock major routes, notably at the access road to the Mont Blanc tunnel where about 30 canisters were fired.
Police at first held back protesters from advancing on Paris' Champs-Elysees, with police vans blocking them from moving down the famed avenue. But up to 200 people were later seen walking down the street, apparently heading toward the Elysee presidential palace.
Protesters, wearing yellow safety vests and dubbing themselves the "yellow jackets," had pledged to target tollbooths, roundabouts and the bypass that rings Paris. The fluorescent yellow vests donned by the protesters must be kept in the vehicles of all French drivers in case of car troubles.
The government sent in police to monitor tens of thousands of gathering points, some non-declared in advance and therefore illegal.
The taxes are part of Macron's strategy of weaning France off fossil fuels. Many drivers see them as emblematic of a presidency they view as disconnected from day-to-day economic difficulties and serving the rich. However, protesters and their supporters have voiced anger about other issues, too, including diminishing buying power.
Robert Tichit, 67, a retiree, referred to the president as "King Macron."
"We've had enough of it. There are too many taxes in this country," he told The Associated Press.
London, Nov 17 (AP/UNB) — British Prime Minister Theresa May is fighting back against critics of her Brexit deal, telling her Conservative opponents that their alternative plans for Britain's departure from the European Union wouldn't work.
May is battling to win over rebels in her own ranks and save her leadership, with two Cabinet ministers quitting and other Conservative critics launching a bid to oust her after Britain agreed to a divorce deal with the EU this week.
In an interview with the Daily Mail on Saturday, May said alternatives favored by her critics to tackle a key stumbling block — the issue of the Irish border — wouldn't resolve the problem.
Disaffected "Brexiteers" believe they have the numbers required to trigger a challenge to May's leadership within days.
Brussels, Nov 15 (AP/UNB) — European Union chief Donald Tusk has called for a summit of leaders to take place on Nov. 25 so they can endorse a draft Brexit deal that has been reached with the British government.
Following an early Thursday meeting, Tusk heaped praise on the EU's Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, who had "achieved the two most important objectives" — limiting the damage caused by Britain's impending departure and maintaining the interests of the other 27 countries that will remain in the bloc after Brexit.
While British Prime Minister Theresa May is trying to win support within her fractured party as well as Parliament, the EU has held the line behind Barnier during the negotiations.
Brussels, Nov 13 (AP/UNB) — Britain and the European Union appeared to be inching toward agreement on Brexit on Monday, but British Prime Minister Theresa May faced intensifying pressure from her divided Conservative government that could yet scuttle a deal.
Britain leaves the EU on March 29 — the first country ever to do so — but a deal must be sealed in the coming weeks to leave enough time for the U.K. and European Parliaments to sign off. May faces increasing domestic pressure over her proposals for an agreement following the resignation of another government minister last week.
The British leader had been hoping to present a draft deal to her Cabinet this week. But no Brexit breakthrough was announced Monday after talks between European affairs ministers. The two sides are locked in technical negotiations to try to bridge the final gaps in a move laden with heavy political and economic consequences.
May said talks were in their "endgame" but that negotiating a divorce agreement after more than four decades of British EU membership was "immensely difficult."
May told an audience at the Lord Mayor's Banquet in London that "we are working extremely hard, through the night, to make progress on the remaining issues in the Withdrawal Agreement, which are significant.
"Both sides want to reach an agreement," May said, though she added she wouldn't sign up to "agreement at any cost."
The main obstacle to a deal is how to keep goods flowing smoothly across the border between EU country Ireland and Northern Ireland in the U.K.
Both sides have committed to avoid a hard border with costly and time-consuming checks that would hamper business. Any new customs posts on the border could also re-ignite lingering sectarian tensions. But Britain and the EU haven't agreed on how to achieve that goal.
"Clearly this is a very important week for Brexit negotiations," Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told reporters after the meeting in Brussels. "The two negotiating teams have really intensified their engagement ... There is still clearly work to do."
And Martin Callanan, a minister in Britain's Brexit department, said all involved were "straining every sinew to make sure that we get a deal but we have to get a deal that is right for the U.K., right for the EU and one that would be acceptable to the U.K. Parliament."
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier didn't speak to reporters Monday and a planned news conference with him was canceled.
Instead, EU headquarters issued a short statement saying that Barnier explained to the ministers that "intense negotiating efforts continue, but an agreement has not been reached yet."
Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said the two sides "are getting closer to each other."
"But in negotiations there is only a deal if there is full agreement," Blok said. "There is only a 100-percent deal. There is not a 90-percent deal or a 95-percent deal."
Earlier, France's EU affairs minister, Nathalie Loiseau, stepped up pressure on May. "The ball is in the British court. It is a question of a British political decision," she said.
The EU is awaiting Barnier's signal as to whether sufficient progress has been made to call an EU summit to seal a deal.
Rumors have swirled of a possible top-level meeting at the end of November. But Austrian EU affairs minister Gernot Bluemel, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, said "so far progress is not sufficient to call in and set up another (summit)."
In recent days there have been signs of progress behind the scenes, but all parties have remained tight-lipped about the developments, given the politically charged atmosphere.
In Britain, pro-Brexit and pro-EU politicians alike warned May that the deal she seeks is likely to be shot down by Parliament.
Boris Johnson, a staunch Brexit supporter, wrote in a column for Monday's Daily Telegraph that May's plan to adhere closely to EU regulations in return for a trade deal and an open Irish border amounts to "total surrender" to the bloc.
The proposed terms are scarcely more popular with advocates of continued EU membership.
Former Education Secretary Justine Greening on Monday called May's proposals the "worst of all worlds," and said the public should be allowed to vote on Britain's departure again.
"We should be planning as to how we can put this final say on Brexit in the hands of the British people," Greening told the BBC.
Johnson's younger brother, Jo Johnson, resigned last week backing calls for a second referendum on whether the country should leave the EU. May has consistently rejected the idea of another nationwide vote on Brexit.