Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is describing the trade spat between the US and China that led to a failure to produce an Apec consensus as "disappointing".

Apec ended in controversy after Chinese officials reportedly forced their way into the office of Papua New Guinea Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato to discuss the wording of the Apec communique.

China dismissed the report as "malicious rumours" while Pato said the report was exaggerated, and that the Chinese did not push their way into the room.

The dispute was mainly over a sentence in the draft communique that read: "We agreed to fight protectionism, including all unfair trade practices."


China reportedly refused to agree to the sentence as it amounted to singling out Chinese trade practices.

It was the first time in Apec's 29-year history that a communique was not issued.

Speaking in Auckland today alongside Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, Ardern said the controversy was a reflection of "some of the differences in the international trade environment".

"It is fair to say it was disappointing that we were unable to have a communique issued at the conclusion of the Apec meeting ... but it shouldn't diminish from the areas of substantive agreement."

She noted highlights from Apec, such as New Zealand's agreement with the US, Australia and Japan to Increase electricity to Papua New Guinea, and New Zealand's role in rebuilding Gordon's market.

She said Papua New Guinea had done a "very good" job in hosting, and Pacific leaders used the event to press climate change issues to world leaders.

"My sense is that that really resonated with Apec leaders."

During the summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping and US Vice President Mike Pence made competing cases about trade, attacking each other's position as they vied for global influence.


Xi met with leaders of seven Pacific Island countries on the sidelines of the summit in a bid to strengthen trade and tourism, while the US said it would join Australia in developing a naval base in Papua New Guinea, a move seen to counter China's influence.

Pence said the base would help "protect sovereignty and maritime rights in the Pacific islands", and later said he was prepared to "more than double" the tariffs imposed on Chinese goods.

He urged countries to work with the US because the US did not "coerce, corrupt or compromise your independence", while Xi attacked the US by saying that countries that embraced protectionism were "doomed to failure".

Ardern noted even though a communique was not released, a chairman's statement from Apec is expected to be issued.