President Biden addressed executives at the APEC summit, expressing the United States’ commitment to “strong diplomacy” with China on global issues, despite acknowledging “real differences” between the two countries. He emphasized that the U.S. would continue addressing these differences through smart policies and strong diplomacy, while also taking targeted action to protect national security interests.
Biden stressed that the U.S. intended to de-risk and diversify its economic relationship with China rather than decoupling, firmly standing up for American values and interests. He also highlighted the importance of diplomatic engagement to prevent misunderstandings and avoid surprises.
The president reiterated these sentiments on Thursday, following an extensive meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping the previous day. He mentioned that they had agreed to resume military-to-military communication to reduce the risk of miscalculation, which received applause from the audience.
Biden also took the opportunity to showcase positive economic indicators, including 4.9% GDP growth in the last quarter, unemployment under 4% for 21 consecutive months, and a 65% reduction in inflation. Despite this strong economic performance, Biden acknowledged that there seemed to be a disconnect between these numbers and public sentiment and pledged to address it.
During his address, President Biden announced that American businesses had invested $40 billion in APEC economies this year, urging other leaders to enact labor protections for workers. He further solidified his commitment to workers’ rights globally by signing a presidential memorandum that outlined plans for trade enforcement actions to promote labor rights.
Biden also engaged with leaders from other APEC economies in discussions on job creation, supply chain stability, clean energy, and the impacts of climate change, particularly on developing countries. Furthermore, he highlighted the investments made under the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity agreement, strengthening alliances and economic ties in East and South Asia.
The planned agenda at the summit faced one notable absence as the Biden administration pulled back on announcing substantial portions of a new trade pact. This decision was made after key Democratic lawmakers expressed opposition to the deal. While President Biden and his advisors recognize that time will reveal the durability of the agreements made with President Xi, the initial test came during a news conference when Biden referred to Xi as a dictator.
This comment drew the ire of the Chinese government, who deemed it “extremely wrong.” Nonetheless, at a later dinner with American billionaires and executives, Xi conveyed China’s willingness to be a partner and friend to the United States, seeking clarity on whether the two nations were adversaries or partners.