China, US APEC representatives gather in Beijing, call for efforts to promote regional prosperity ahead of Blinken’s visit
Published: Jun 17, 2023 09:02 PM
Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen delivers a speech at the opening ceremony of APEC China CEO Forum 2023 held in Beijing on June 17, 2023. Photo: Shen Weiduo/GT

Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen delivers a speech at the opening ceremony of APEC China CEO Forum 2023 held in Beijing on June 17, 2023. Photo: Shen Weiduo/GT

Representatives from China and the US convened at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) China CEO Forum 2023 held in Beijing on Saturday, calling for collaborative efforts to promote prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region through the multilateral mechanism in light of the increasing challenges faced.

The timing of the forum is critical - occurring prior to the China visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and coinciding with the presence of many executives from US multinational companies in China, which according to some observers, signals that pragmatic trade related cooperation persists despite rising diplomatic tensions.

APEC is a model of regional economic cooperation. Since its establishment, it has been committed to promoting regional economic integration, trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, providing more opportunities for the development of the Asia-Pacific business community, Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen told the opening ceremony of the forum on Saturday.

Wang noted that China's economy has achieved strong recovery and rapid growth after the epidemic, reaffirming China's commitment to continue to open its doors and actively promote high-level opening up, which will offer more opportunities to the world.

"However, some individual countries have abused the concept of national security, implemented export controls, imposed technological blockades, and distorted normal trade and investment. We oppose such unilateral bullying and economic coercion," the official said.

"After the extended period of pandemic challenges, economic disruptions and accelerating climate impacts that all of us are feeling, it seems APEC has really met its moment. All of the work it has done for years on subjects like trade facilitation and healthcare align with newer work done in the areas of the digital economy and sustainability about which we are still learning," Monica Hardy Whaley, President of US Center for APEC, said at the opening ceremony of the event.

Whaley also expressed her pleasure in attending the event in person in Beijing since pandemic, as she had been limited to video messages over the past several years.

Under the theme "Pursue High-Quality, Sustainable Development," this year's forum was co-hosted by China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT), the China Chamber of International Commerce (CCOIC), and APEC China Business Council (ACBC).

Apart from APEC representatives and trade officials, Chinese business representatives from various sectors, including Hu Houkun, senior executive of tech giant Huawei, and Liu Chang, chairperson of agriculture giant New Hope Liuhe, also attended the forum, offering their own ideas for sustainable development and digital solutions for the region.

Wang Linjie, spokesperson for the CCPIT, said at a press conference in May that the forum was held to "expand the influence of the Chinese business community in APEC, promote economic and trade cooperation and exchanges in the Asia-Pacific region, and prepare for attending the APEC CEO Summit in the US in November."

"Trade exchanges between China and the US are seeing signs of increasing after senior trade officials from the world's two largest economies held 'candid' talks last month," Wu Lei, a senior China-US relations observer, told the Global Times on the sidelines of the forum on Saturday.

In a fast move, a group of more than 130 Chinese representatives from local governments and enterprises recently set off on a group visit to California for the first time in three years in late May.

The delegation, led by the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Machinery and Electronic Products (CCCME) and supported by the Chinese Consulate General in Los Angeles, aimed to promote local economic and trade cooperation and exchanges at the provincial and city level between China and the US, according to the CCCME website.

"This clearly demonstrates that strengthened economic ties are in the interests of both China and US people," Wu said, noting that it is important to differentiate between the voices of some politicians in Washington and local government officials and industry representatives.

Meanwhile, US executives are also seeking greater cooperation with China. Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, arrived in China on June 14, his first trip to the country since 2019. This also follows a recent visit made by US billionaire Elon Musk.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen also said that the US wants to work with China on urgent global challenges during a closed-door meeting with American business leaders in early June, according to a report from CNN, citing a person familiar with the matter.

China and the US should strive to promote the sound and stable development of bilateral economic and trade relations, injecting more stability into the world economy, a spokesperson from China's Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) said on Thursday.