Fresh off Meeting with China's Xi, Biden is Turning His Attention to Asia-Pacific Economies

President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference after his meeting with China's President President Xi Jinping at the Filoli Estate in Woodside, Calif., Wednesday, Nov, 15, 2023, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperative conference. Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP, Pool

SAN FRANCISCO — Fresh off his meeting with the leader of China, President Joe Biden on Thursday will address CEOs grappling with the risks to their businesses from world crises and spend time trying to persuade other Indo-Pacific leaders that the U.S. is committed to nurturing economic ties throughout the region.

“We've got a few busy days ahead of us,” Biden said during a welcome reception, ticking off a list of concerns and challenges for the leaders to examine. “Our strongest tools to meet those challenges remain the same ... connection, cooperation, collective action and common purpose."

Biden is courting world leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit and through his administration’s Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a group that includes most of the 21 APEC member economies, and a few others, like India, that aren’t members of the larger forum.

The president will also pose for the traditional “family photo” with APEC leaders, host a working lunch and a fancy leaders dinner.

The U.S. hasn't hosted the annual leaders' summit — started in 1993 by President Bill Clinton -- since 2011. The group met virtually in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Leaders did gather in Bangkok last year, but Biden skipped the summit because his granddaughter was getting married and he sent Vice President Kamala Harris in his place.

The annual leaders’ conference brings together heads of nations and other top economic and diplomatic leaders. Biden told those who gathered Wednesday evening at a welcome party — including Russia's representative, Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk — that today's challenges were unlike those faced by other APEC leaders.

“How we're going to harness the potential of artificial intelligence to lift up the world, while minimizing the risks and safety concerns of the present?" he asked. “Will we act, with the urgency necessary to dramatically curb carbon emissions and avert a climate catastrophe that threatens us all? Can supply chains be built that are more resilient and secure in the face of threats like natural disasters and pandemics?”

On Thursday, Biden will speak to CEOs who are exploring new technologies and the concept of resilience so that companies can steer through a variety of challenges.

After decades of trade built on the premise of keeping prices low, accessing new markets and maximizing profits, many companies are now finding a vulnerable global economy. The Ukraine and Israel-Hamas conflicts aren’t helping matters.

The coronavirus pandemic exposed frailties in their supply chains. Climate change has intensified natural disasters that can close factories. The Israel-Hamas war and Ukraine’s defense against a Russia invasion have generated new financial risks, and new technologies such as artificial intelligence could change how companies operate and displace workers.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, too, met with American business leaders — at a $2,000-per-plate dinner Wednesday evening. It was a rare opportunity for U.S. business leaders to hear directly from the Chinese leader as they seek clarification on Beijing’s expanding security rules that may choke foreign investment.

“China is pursuing high-quality development, and the United States is revitalizing its economy,” he said, according to an English language translation. “There is plenty of room for our cooperation, and we are fully able to help each other succeed and achieve win-win outcomes.”

He even signaled that China would send the U.S. new pandas, just a week after three from the Smithsonian National Zoo were returned to China — much to the dismay of Americans. There are only four pandas left in the United States — at the Atlanta Zoo.

Biden and Xi understand that the complicated ties between the two nations have major global impacts. Their meeting Wednesday at a Northern California estate was in part an effort to show the world that while they are global economic competitors, the U.S. and China aren’t full-fledged rivals.

With his characteristic optimism, Biden sketched a vision of leaders who manage competition “responsibly,” adding, “that’s what the United States wants and what we intend to do.”

Xi, though, was gloomier about the state of the post-pandemic global economy. China’s economy remains in the doldrums, with prices falling due to slack demand from consumers and businesses.

“The global economy is recovering, but its momentum remains sluggish,” Xi said. “Industrial and supply chains are still under the threat of interruption and protectionism is rising. All these are grave problems.”

White House officials said Biden has been bolstered by signs the U.S. economy is in a stronger position than China’s, and that the U.S. was building stronger alliances throughout the Pacific.

Part of those alliances are through the IPEF framework, announced during a May 2022 trip to Tokyo. It came six years after the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal that was signed by 12 countries.

The new framework has four major pillars: supply chains, climate, anti-corruption and trade. There won’t be any official trade deals to announce — the “framework” label allows Biden to bypass Congress on any agreements reached with the 13 countries.

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