Asia Minute: APEC’s Diplomatic Loss

Oct 31, 2019

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.