Chilean President Sebastián Piñera announced on Wednesday that Santiago would no longer host two upcoming major international summits, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit and the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP25.
Piñera’s announcement comes amid widespread protests and riots in Chile which have resulted in the deaths of at least 18 people and some 7,000 arrests. The APEC summit was scheduled to take place on November 16 and 17 and the COP25 climate summit over the first two weeks in December.
“This has been a very difficult decision, a decision that causes us a lot of pain, because we fully understand the importance of APEC and COP-25 for Chile and for the world,” Piñera said in a statement.
Chile was “deeply sorry for the problems and inconveniences that this decision will mean for both APEC and the COP,” he added. “But as President of all Chileans I always have to put the problems and interests of the Chileans, their needs, their desires and their hopes.”
The upcoming APEC summit would have brought together leaders from 20 countries, including U.S. President Donald J. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Trump and Xi had been expected to pursue an interim trade agreement on the sidelines of the Chile summit.
APEC has generally served a valuable role as a space for regional leaders from both sides of the Pacific Ocean to meet. The annual leaders’ meeting is generally an important diplomatic event on the calendar of participating countries.
The 21 members of APEC use the forum as a non-binding consultative institution to discuss matters of trade. Unlike regulatory intergovernmental organizations like the World Trade Organization (WTO), APEC is not a forum for member states to negotiate market access or tariffs.
Responding to Piñera’s announcement, Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria, the executive director of the APEC Secretariat, tweeted that the “safety and welfare of Chile and our member economies are APEC’s utmost priority.”
“We thank Chile for tirelessly advocating for more inclusive growth throughout its host year, including by prioritizing the economic empowerment of women and small businesses,” she added. “All APEC members will continue to advance this critical agenda of making sure that all communities across the Asia-Pacific reap the benefits of economic growth and integration.”
Malaysia will host the 2020 APEC summit.
Piñera’s announcement of the cancellation of the APEC summit has apparently caught the White House off-guard, according to Reuters. The summit’s cancellation comes one day after the White House announced that Trump would not be traveling to the U.S.-Association of Southeast Asian Nations and East Asia Summits in Bangkok, Thailand.
With the APEC summit cancelled, its unclear if Trump may now travel to the East Asia Summit.