Asia-Pacific finance ministers fret over US-China spat

This photo shows a man sitting at a bus stop decorated with billboards for the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Port Moresby. — AFP photo

SYDNEY: The trade spat between the world’s two largest economies – China and the United States – is imperilling the entire Asia-Pacific, regional finance ministers have warned.

In a statement, finance ministers meeting in Port Moresby said risks to the global economy had increased thanks to “heightened trade and geopolitical tensions”, a veiled reference to the tit-for-tat trade dispute between Washington and Beijing.

US President Donald Trump has announced billions of dollars’ worth of additional tariffs on Chinese goods, claiming the country is systematically cheating on globally agreed trade rules.

Beijing has announced retaliatory measures, as it seeks to protect growth that is vital to the country’s rising political clout.

The result has been a sharp sell-off on equity markets and mutterings of concern from central banks across the globe.

Following Wednesday’s finance minister’s meeting, host and Papua New Guinea treasurer Charles Abel warned “protectionist trends stemming from trade tensions and the buildup of debt are troubling and a real threat to development and prosperity right around the APEC region”.

APEC leaders will gather in Papua New Guinea next month to try and sort through the dispute.

A lengthy statement from the bloc’s finance ministers late Wednesday did not bode well for agreement.

The document amounted to a wish list of competing interests among member states, sounding the alarm about “high and growing debt levels” while arguing “fiscal policy should be flexible and growth-friendly”. — AFP