(Bloomberg) — U.S. Vice President Mike Pence traded sharp barbs with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in back-to-back speeches at a regional summit, showing that neither country appears to be giving ground in an escalating trade war.
Xi received applause Saturday when he told the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Papua New Guinea that implementing tariffs and breaking up supply chains was “short-sighted” and “doomed to failure.” He called for a stronger World Trade Organization and defended his signature Belt-and-Road Initiative, saying it’s “not a trap as some people have labeled it.”
Speaking moments later, Pence told delegates the U.S. offers countries in the region “a better option’’ for economic and diplomatic relations than Beijing’s heavy-handed approach. He warned against taking Chinese loans, saying the U.S. “doesn’t drown our partners in a sea of debt” nor offer “a constricting belt or a one-way road.”
The back-and-forth on a cruise ship docked in Port Moresby, the capital, suggested the world’s biggest economies remained far from a deal to end a damaging trade war even after President Donald Trump said he was optimistic about a resolution. Trump and Xi are scheduled to meet a few weeks from now at the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires.