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China's relationship with US 'at hinge moment,' says Xi

Chinese President Xi Jinping has said he hopes for a "smooth transition" in ties with the US after a final meeting with Obama. Xi pledged further economic openings in his country as APEC leaders sought new trade options.

US President Barack Obama has met with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping for the final time on Saturday on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Lima, Peru.

He called the period following Donald Trump's election a "hinge moment" in relations between Beijing and Washington. Xi also spoke of his hope for a "smooth transition" in those ties without directly naming Trump.

The President-elect's campaign often criticized China, blaming the country for "inventing" climate change and said he would either scrap or renegotiate international trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

"I hope the two sides will work together to focus on cooperation, manage our differences, and make sure there is a smooth transition in the relationship and that it will continue to grow going forward," Xi said.

Obama, who has met with his Chinese counterpart nine times since he took office in 2009, has worked to slowly improve cooperation with China while managing fallout from disputes in the South China Sea.

"I continue to believe that a constructive US-China relationship benefits our two peoples and benefits the entire globe," Obama said. "We've demonstrated what's possible when our two countries work together."

The two sides also restated their commitment to "denuclearizing the Korean peninsula" following their meeting

China ready to fill the trade void

Xi also emphasized his country's commitment to economic opening, painting his country as a leader on free trade during the summit.

"China will not shut its door to the outside world but open more," Xi said in a keynote address at APEC. "We're going to...make sure the fruits of development are shared."

The Chinese leader has been promoting an alternate vision for regional trade; the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which currently excludes the Americas.

The Obama administration has cautioned that RCEP would not include as many protections for the environment, workers or intellectual property.

Chinese attendance at the APEC meeting in Lima was the largest it has ever been, with regional delegates saying China is ready to fill the void and take the lead on trade should the US turn towards protectionism under Trump.

Despite China's efforts, some APEC members said they intend to press forward with TPP, hoping the US will still show leadership on trade.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said TPP members might be able to incorporate "cosmetic changes" to make the trade pact more attractive for the former reality TV star President-elect.

"The Trump Pacific Partnership for instance, that'd be fine," Key said, laughing.

The White House has urged world leaders to give Trump time to get accustomed to the office.

rs/kl (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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