Chile has canceled the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit of world leaders next month in Santiago after a wave of deadly protests in recent weeks.
The move throws into question when and where President Donald Trump will sign a “phase one” trade deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The two leaders were expected to finalize the agreement at the Nov. 16-17 meeting, which usually brings together more than 20 world leaders.
A person familiar with the talks said the cancellation made the situation “awkward” but doesn’t affect the progress being made.
“What it means is that we have to figure out a different venue,” this person said. “We just have to figure out someplace where it can be done where it’s suitable.“
White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley told reporters that the administration is still looking to finalize the preliminary trade deal with China “within the same time frame.”
Officials from both the U.S. and China were working in recent weeks to finalize the text of the agreement, in which the U.S. will put a pause on tariff escalation and China will agree to major agricultural purchases. A Chinese government spokesperson said on Tuesday that both sides “affirmed that technical consultations on part of the text has been basically completed.”
On Monday, Trump was optimistic that a deal would be reached by mid-November, saying negotiations were progressing well.
“We are looking probably to be ahead of schedule to sign a very big portion of the China deal, and we’ll call it phase one but it’s a very big portion,” Trump said. “That would take care of the farmers. It would take care of some of the other things. It will also take care of a lot of the banking needs.”
The decision announced Wednesday by Chilean President Sebastián Piñera also cancels the United Nations climate change conference, the COP25, due to take place in Santiago Dec. 2-13.
“We are deeply sorry and sorry for the problems and inconveniences that this decision will mean for both APEC and the COP. But as President of all Chileans, I must always put the problems, the interests of Chileans, their needs, their desires and their wishes first in line,” Piñera said in comments.
Chile and its capital Santiago have experienced major unrest after a subway fare hike sparked broader protests against income inequality at a scale not seen in decades.
By ADAM BEHSUDI and MADI BOLAÑOS