APEC seeks actions to ‘restore confidence’ (Lead)

November 23rd, 2008 - 1:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Lima, Nov 23 (DPA) The 21 leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic- Cooperation (APEC) forum meeting Saturday in Lima focused on the need to restore confidence and contain the long-term impact that the global financial crisis is having on the region.”All together, governments and business leaders are going to beat the crisis,” Peruvian President Alan Garcia said, toasting with the typical Peruvian cocktail pisco sour, following the first session of the summit.

Earlier, leaders including US President George W. Bush, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had issued a statement on the start of their two-day meeting.

The document repeated large portions of last week’s G20 summit declaration from Washington, where nine APEC members took part.

Leaders in Lima noted that they discussed “the actions APEC members are taking, individually and collectively, to restore confidence” and to keep the region “on a path of long-term growth.”

APEC leaders gave explicit support to the Washington Declaration and in their statement as in previous comments calls for reform were tempered by warnings against protectionism: “We reiterate our firm belief that free-market principles and open trade and investment regimes will continue to drive global growth, employment and poverty reduction.”

APEC leaders noted that “slower world growth could lead to calls for protectionist measures, which would only exacerbate the current economic situation,” using exactly the same language contained in the G20 document to announce their concrete decisions.

“(We) will refrain within the next 12 months from raising new barriers to investment or to trade in goods and services, imposing new export restrictions or implementing World Trade Organization (WTO) inconsistent measures in all areas, including those that stimulate exports.”

In a slightly different wording from the G20, APEC called for “an ambitious and balanced conclusion to the Doha Development Agenda negotiations to provide the basis for our economies to grow and prosper.”

“We are committed to reach agreement on modalities next month on the basis of progress made to date,” the statement said.

Leaders vowed to pursue “a possible Free Trade Area of the Asia- Pacific as a long-term prospect.”

The actual discussions took place Saturday behind closed doors.

The meeting took place in the so-called “Pentagonito,” or little pentagon, the local nickname for the Peruvian Army headquarters in Lima’s San Borja district.

Garcia had personally welcomed his guests before the imposing concrete structure, under a large Peruvian flag.

Talks were set to continue later Saturday and early Sunday, and a final declaration would be issued at the end of the gathering.

Earlier, many top participants including Bush and Hu had addressed an APEC chief executives summit in Lima. They anticipated that economic issues would play the main role in the meetings and expressed a commitment to keep “markets open and firmly reject protectionism,” in Bush’s words.

“This summit comes at a serious time, during economic turmoil,” he said.

Friday, Hu had told business leaders bluntly: “The situation is very grim.”

APEC describes itself as having 21 member economies, rather than member countries, because it includes the Chinese territory of Hong Kong and also Taiwan, which China sees as its breakaway province.

For the same reason, its summits display no flags and bring together “leaders” rather than the more usual heads of state or government.

The group’s 19 other members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.

The Asia-Pacific region represents an estimated 49 percent of world trade and 55 percent of global gross domestic product, according to APEC.

The forum was created in 1989 with 12 members, and annual leaders’ meetings have been held since 1993.

About 39,000 police officers were securing the summit, along with a further 50,000 on call. An unspecified number of military officers were supporting the police.

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