APEC aims to restore confidence in world economy

Other News Materials 23 November 2008 20:15 (UTC +04:00)

Pacific Rim nations struggled Sunday to restore confidence in the world's ailing financial system, wrapping up a summit that focused on guarding against protectionism and resuscitating moribund free-trade talks, AP reported.

In two days of meetings, the 21 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum endorsed a blueprint worked out at a summit of top economies in Washington, but stopped short of new proposals to ward off a punishing global recession.

The leaders, who represent more than half the world's economic power, held a last-minute series of bilateral meetings early Sunday before going behind closed doors to finalize a broad 12-point joint declaration.

While such summits have in the past focused on a grab bag of issues, this year's meeting in the Peruvian capital has been dominated by the world's economic meltdown. A credit crunch in the United States has roiled global markets and dragged part of the world into recession.

On Saturday, APEC nations - including those not represented at the Washington summit - endorsed the conclusions of that meeting. Those included a pledge to resist domestic pressures to protect industries, while ensuring that small and medium-sized companies have enough credit to stay afloat.

The nations - which include the United States, China, Russia and Japan - also pledged to reach agreement next month on the outlines of a World Trade Organization pact that collapsed in July after seven years of negotiations. Concern over the global financial crisis injected new urgency into the so-called Doha round of trade talks.

The leaders called for greater APEC participation in the International Monetary Fund and other multilateral lenders. Japan said last week it was ready to lend up to $100 billion to the IMF, but China has so far resisted entreaties to dig into its $1.9 trillion in reserves.

The summit was expected to be the final foreign trip for George W. Bush as U.S. president. President-elect Barack Obama takes office Jan. 20, and delegates in Lima said there was little incentive to propose more concrete action without his presence. Obama did not send representatives to Lima.

Even people who work for Bush acknowledged that tough issues such as a stalled U.S.-South Korea free-trade agreement would likely have to wait.

"I think the very understandable concern of these foreign governments is, will the new administration do some sort of policy review," said Dennis Wilder, senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council.

Obama has said one area he wants to review is the U.S. free-trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, but in Lima the leaders of those two countries telegraphed their resistance to that idea.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon said any attempt to renegotiate the 15-year-old pact would create "not more markets and more trade, but fewer markets and less trade." Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper hailed NAFTA as a great success.