Mon | Dec 9, 2019

Chile scraps Asia-Pacific and climate summits amid protests

Published:Thursday | October 31, 2019 | 12:23 AM
Anti-government demonstrators march outside La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, Chile, yesterday.
Anti-government demonstrators march outside La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, Chile, yesterday.

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP):

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera said Wednesday that he is cancelling two major international summits so he can respond to protracted nationwide protests over economic inequality that have left more than a dozen people dead, hundreds injured and businesses and infrastructure damaged.

The decision to call off the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and UN global climate gatherings, planned for November and December, respectively, dealt a major blow to Chile’s image as a regional oasis of stability and economic development.

Piñera said he was forced to cancel both events due to the chaos unleashed by 13 days of protests. Demonstrators are demanding greater economic equality and better public services in a country long seen as an economic success story. Shops have been vandalised and buildings set on fire, shutting down numerous subway stations.

“This has been a very difficult decision that causes us great pain,” Piñera said in a televised address. “A president always has to put the needs of his countrymen first.”

Scramble

Trade and climate negotiators scrambled to find new locations for their summits, aimed at resolving tariff-related conflicts between China and the US and finalising countries’ climate rules in advance of a bigger summit next year during which governments will be asked to commit to new emissions limits.

President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping had hoped to sign a modest trade agreement at the APEC summit, formerly scheduled to take place in Santiago on November 16-17. Under the tentative deal, the US had agreed to suspend plans to raise tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese imports, and Beijing had agreed to step up purchases of US farm products.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said US officials were “awaiting potential information regarding another location,” but it was unclear if any had been proposed. Gidley added that Trump wanted to sign the deal with China “within the same time frame,” hinting that a separate event could occur outside a summit.

The so-called Phase One trade agreement did little to address the underlying US grievances against China, including its alleged practice of forcing foreign firms to hand over trade secrets; stealing technology, and unfairly subsidising Chinese firms. China’s leaders have been reluctant to make the kind of policy reforms that would satisfy Washington, worrying such concessions would mean scaling back their aspirations to become a world leader in advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and driverless cars.