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Asia Minute: APEC’s Diplomatic Loss

Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead
President Donald J. Trump joins Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, at their bilateral meeting Saturday, June 29, 2019, at the G20 Japan Summit in Osaka, Japan.";

The government of Chile has cancelled plans to host a pair of international meetings scheduled for November and December, because of continuing violent demonstrations. UN officials are scrambling to re-set a climate change conference scheduled for December. But next month’s regional trade meeting known as APEC may be cancelled — and that will have ripple effects.

Santiago, Chile was supposed to be the background of a photo opportunity for President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping — signing an interim trade deal. But continued violence in the Chilean capital has made that impossible, and the White House says it is looking for an alternative location for a top-level signing event with China.

The scheduled gathering was a leaders’ meeting of APEC, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum — set for November 15th to 17th – starting two weeks from Friday.

These events are not tossed together at the last minute. Think of when Honolulu hosted the APEC leaders’ meeting in 2011 — the announcement was made two years ahead of that.

While these get-togethers do provide an opportunity for pictures of presidents and prime ministers in matching clothing, they’re also a chance for quiet meetings — relatively quick one on one check-ins.

A term often used by reporters is that leaders “gather on the sidelines” of meetings like this.

Those bi-lateral meetings often don’t result in major pronouncements or deals, but they can serve an important purpose in diplomatic maintenance – a chance for discussion without the intense expectations to produce a series of breakthrough headlines.

For members of APEC, that’s an opportunity that’s apparently not on the table this year.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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