Asia-Pacific leaders failed to agree on a communique at a summit in Papua New Guinea on Sunday for the first time in their history as deep divisions between the United States and China over trade and investment stymied cooperation.
Competition between the United States and China over the Pacific was also thrown into focus with the U.S. and its Western allies launching a coordinated response to Beijing's Belt and Road program.
"You know the two big giants in the room," Papua New Guinea (PNG) Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said at a closing news conference, when asked which of the 21 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group could not agree.
O'Neill, who was chairman of the meeting, said the sticking point was over whether mention of the World Trade Organization and its possible reform should be in the Leaders' Declaration.
"APEC has got no charter over World Trade Organization, that is a fact. Those matters can be raised at the World Trade Organization."
The multilateral trade order that APEC was established in 1989 to protect is crumbling as Chinese assertiveness in the Pacific and U.S. tariffs strain relations in the region and divide loyalties.
A Leaders' Declaration has been issued after every annual APEC leaders' meeting since the first in 1993, the group's website shows.
O'Neill said that as APEC host, he would release a Chairman's Statement, though it was not clear when.
U.S. President Donald Trump did not attend the meeting and nor did his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence attended instead of Trump.
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived to great fanfare on Thursday and was feted by PNG officials. He stoked Western concern on Friday when he met Pacific island leaders to pitch his Belt and Road initiative.
The United States and its allies, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, countered on Sunday with a $1.7 billion plan to deliver reliable electricity and the internet to PNG.