U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping are expected to address leaders of the Pacific Rim late on Friday amid heightened regional trade and geopolitical tensions.
China set the tone for the 21 member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting this week, with Xi warning in a video recording on Thursday that the region must not return to the tensions of the Cold War era.
The comment was seen as a reference to efforts by the United States and its regional allies to blunt what they see as China’s growing coercive economic and military influence.
Biden is expected to address the gathering that begins midnight New Zealand time, the White House confirmed in a statement, adding he will discuss ongoing efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic and support global economic recovery.
“The President’s participation demonstrates U.S. commitment to the Indo-Pacific region and to multilateral cooperation,” the statement said.
Chinese foreign ministry has also confirmed that Xi will speak at the meeting via video link.
The APEC gathering comes ahead of a much-anticipated virtual summit between Biden and Xi on Monday, as the super powers look to prevent growing tensions between the world’s two biggest economies from spiralling toward conflict.
APEC is the last multi-lateral meeting of the year and comes after a flurry of gatherings including the high-profile G20 summit in Rome and the COP26 climate meeting in Glasgow, Scotland.
US President Joe Biden, Xi Jinping to address Asia-Pacific leaders on regional trade, geopolitical tensions https://t.co/ghNuympEgs
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APEC in 2021 was hosted entirely online due to host New Zealand’s hardline pandemic control measures that have kept its borders closed to almost all travellers for 18 months.
New Zealand has emphasised APEC support for fighting COVID-19, decarbonising economies and growing sustainably.
APEC members pledged at a special meeting called by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in June to expand sharing and manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines and lift trade barriers for medicines.
APEC will be held in Thailand next year.
The United States has offered to host the 2023 round of APEC meetings for the first time in over a decade, although a consensus has not been reached on this proposal, officials have said.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Canadian President Justin Trudeau are also expected to speak at the meeting.
Reuters with additional input by GVS News Desk