The Great Power rivalry which quickly surfaced at Apec last week didn't take the tarnish of what was a very successful meeting of 21 Asia-Pacific leaders hosted by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
The leaders endorsed an implementation plan for the Putrajaya vision to ensure the Asia-Pacific remains the world's most dynamic and interconnected regional economy. Dubbed the Aotearoa Action Plan, it sets out a range of collective actions to underpin three economic drivers centred on trade and investment, innovation and digitalisation, and strong, balanced, secure, sustainable and inclusive growth.
Nailing the plan was no easy feat for New Zealand's foreign affairs officials in a year dominated by Covid. This meant all meetings had to held virtually.
There are some solid goals such as accelerating progress towards delivering on existing leaders' commitments on energy use.
By the end of 2023 each economy will have voluntarily showcased a number of individual actions based on options under the plan. These collective actions will be reviewed every five years in 2026, 2030 and 2036.
This is typical of the incremental progress that Apec makes.
Ahead of Friday's overnight meeting — which culminated in a 3.30am press conference on Saturday morning — several leaders staked out positions.
Notably, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned other leaders not to draw ideological lines or form small circles on geopolitical grounds.
"The Asia-Pacific region cannot and should not relapse into the confrontation and division of the Cold War era," Xi said, in an obvious reference to the divisions which have emerged as the Biden Administration in the US builds alliances to counter China's economic and military rise under the umbrella of a democratic Indo-Pacific construct.
Within the leaders' retreat itself, Xi urged the need to practice true multilateralism and stick to dialogue rather than confrontation. "Inclusiveness rather than exclusion, and integration rather than decoupling, and be resolute in safeguarding the multilateral trading regime with the World Trade Organization (WTO) at its core."
During the meeting, President Biden also underscored his commitment to strengthening the US relationship with Apec economies in order to advance fair and open trade and investment, bolster American competitiveness, and ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific.
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan shared more about America's ambitions for regional engagement at Australia's Lowy Institute. "Whether it's in the realm of supply chains, or the intersection of climate and trade, or digital, or investment screening and export controls. Across a number of areas that have not traditionally been part of trade agreements, we believe there is the possibility of putting together a comprehensive vision and getting a whole bunch of countries aligned around that," he said.
Another curved ball came from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who used the CEO summit to rail against China's dominance as the world's biggest producer of rare earth minerals used in technologies such as solar panels, computers and mobile phones.
"The critical minerals and rare earths supply chain, and what it feeds into with new energy technologies ... is very dependent on largely one supplier which has the ability to apply a lot of monopolistic power to prevent other supply chains being developed," Morrison said.
"Australia feels very strongly about ensuring that alternative supply chains around rare earths and critical minerals can be developed and support whole new lists of customers that operate at various points down the chain."
The Australian PM has also railed against China's trade sanctions against his country and made clear it will oppose the Chinese bid to join the CPTPP trade agreement while coercive behaviour remains in place. He wants the World Trade Organisation to review the Chinese moves.
But while all this political swordsmanship was taking place at leader level, climate envoys for both major powers had stitched up an unexpected US-China declaration to boost climate co-operation. China and the US are the world's two biggest CO2 emitters.
While their pledge was short on detail, they told the COP 26 summit in Glasgow that they would work together to achieve the 1.5C temperature goal set out in the 2015 Paris agreement.
Furthermore, both presidents are due to have a bilateral virtual meeting of their own early this week, which both sides hope will create a new stability in the relationship. Xi said China is willing to enhance exchanges and co-operation across the board.
The US statements have been similarly conciliatory.
The US has made an offer to host the 2023 Apec meeting. But that has been stymied by Russia, which according to reliable reports will not support the American bid unless the US lifts sanctions against some of its diplomats.
According to a transcript released by the Kremlin, President Putin did not reference this in his own comments to the leaders' retreat. But he did wish Thailand, the new Apec Host, every success. "You can certainly rely on our support and assistance."
Ardern told journalists that she expected agreement would be reached on the US bid by the end of the year. She played down the geopolitical tensions saying the meeting was "was constructive, it was positive and convivial, and there was a real common sense of purpose among members."
This did come through on the international response to Covid, with leaders agreeing to do all they could to improve access to coronavirus vaccines and reduce carbon emissions "because nobody is safe until everyone is safe — we are determined to ensure extensive immunisation of our people against Covid-19 as a global public good," their statement read.
They have committed to expand vaccine manufacture and supply, including through the voluntary transfer of vaccine production technology.
There was also support for a plan to improve trade in Covid-19 vaccines and related medical products, including through streamlined customs procedures.