Chile cancels APEC summit in Nov. amid anti-gov’t protests

Oct 31 ,2019. KYODO NEWS.

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said Wednesday his country will not host a summit of the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation forum planned for mid-November, citing continuing instability amid anti-government protests.

The APEC summit was scheduled to be held Nov. 16-17 in the Chilean capital Santiago following a ministerial meeting among member nations. The Chilean president also announced the cancellation of a U.N. climate gathering slated for Dec. 2-13.

The upcoming APEC summit was seen as a key opportunity for leaders from advanced and emerging economies to engage in bilateral talks on the fringes of the multilateral parley.

Pinera made no reference to the APEC summit or climate gathering being held elsewhere or at different times. If APEC were to skip its summit of world leaders this year, it would be the first such case in the history of the regional economic forum.

U.S. President Donald Trump had showed eagerness to travel to the South American country to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping to sign a deal intended to defuse their ongoing bilateral trade row.

Following the announcement by the Chilean president, the White House said in a statement that APEC “does not currently have a secondary site prepared.”

With regard to the envisioned trade agreement with China, the statement said, “We look forward to finalizing Phase One of the historic trade deal with China within the same time frame,” suggesting that Washington aims to seal the pact next month regardless of the regional summit.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was also expected to attend the summit. Interest had been building as to whether he would meet in Santiago with South Korean President Moon Jae In as the two countries remain locked in a bitter dispute over wartime compensation and trade issues.

As for the 25th session of the Conference of the Parties on climate change, dubbed COP25, Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg was planning to attend as part of her ongoing efforts that have inspired many youths around the world to join the fight to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

The Chilean president said he made a tough decision to cancel the two major conferences, saying he is fully aware of the importance of APEC and COP25 meetings.

But he said he prioritizes addressing the country’s growing social unrest.

Chile has been in turmoil, with crowds taking to the streets to demand the government address growing income inequality and provide better public services.

As the demonstrations escalated, accompanied by periodic looting and arson, local authorities were forced to shut down some of the capital’s subway stations.

At least 20 citizens have died since the protests began in the middle of this month over an increase in subway fares. Although the Chilean government withdrew the fare hike, anti-government protests did not lose momentum, prompting the government to temporarily declare a state of emergency and impose a curfew at night.

APEC groups Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.

Their first summit was held in Seattle in 1993.