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Xi praises free trade at Asia meet as G-7 ends in disarray

The Associated Press QINGDAO, China (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping extolled free trade and criticized “selfish, short-sighted” policies Sunday during a closely orchestrated gathering of a Beijing-led bloc, standing in stark contrast with the Group of Seven summit that ended in disarray over trade tensions.

“We should reject selfish, short-sighted, narrow and closed-off policies. We must maintain the rules of the World Trade Organization, support the multilateral trade system and build an open global economy,” Xi said.

Though his remarks did not mention U.S. President Donald Trump, Beijing has sought to portray itself as a defender of free trade in response to the American leader’s support for import controls. This is despite China’s status as the most-closed major economy.

Xi also hailed the entry of new members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, calling the presence of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain “of great historic significance” in opening remarks at this weekend’s summit of in the northern Chinese port of Qingdao.

The Beijing-led bloc, which experts see as seeking to challenge the Western-led order, is dominated by China and Russia and also includes Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Founded in 2001, it was originally conceived as a vehicle for resolving border issues, fighting terrorism, and — more implicitly — to counter American influence in Central Asia following its invasion of Afghanistan.

The summit comes as Russia and China have boosted ties in response to the U.S. national security strategy that describes them as America’s top adversaries.

“We should reject the Cold War mentality and confrontation between blocks,” Xi said, adding that the countries should “oppose the practices of seeking absolute security of oneself at the expense of the security of other countries.”

Putin: Willing to meet Trump

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sunday that he’s happy to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump once Washington is ready to hold the summit and welcomed Trump’s call to bring Moscow back into the G-7 group of leading industrialized nations.

Speaking to reporters in Qingdao, China, Putin said that some nations, including Austria, have offered to host his summit with Trump, should they have one.

“The U.S. president has repeatedly said that it’s reasonable to hold such a meeting,” Putin said on the sidelines of a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. “As soon as the U.S. side is ready, the meeting will take place, depending, of course, on my working schedule.”

Putin said he shares Trump’s expression of concern about a renewed arms race expressed in a March phone call.

Putin also welcomed Trump’s statement that Russia should be invited to rejoin the group that was called the Group of Eight before others expelled Russia.

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