Free trade tops agenda at APEC meeting
on 07/09/2012 09:03:51
Faltering vital signs in China and elsewhere suggest the global recovery may depend on it.
The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum aims to foster growth by dismantling barriers and bottlenecks that slow trade and business, while nurturing closer economic ties.
Given its status as an organisation governed by consensus, Apec is not known for major policy breakthroughs.
This year may be particularly challenging: From the Kuril islands to the north east of Vladivostok all the way to the Spratlys in the South China Sea, various neighbours are squabbling over territories at a time when they most need to be focused on promoting growth.
South Korea is feuding with Japan, Japan with China, China with many of its Southeast Asian neighbours.
With elections due soon in South Korea and Japan, and a once-in-a-decade change in the Communist Party leadership pending in China, lame-duck leaders facing nationalist pressures at home have little room for amicably resolving the disputes.
"It's bad luck that it happens just before all these transitions. Everybody is looking around and saying, 'these people won't be at the table in three months,"' said William Overholt, an Asia expert at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.
"The omens are not auspicious," he said.
As expected, Apec finance ministers issued a declaration noting the crucial role the region plays in driving world growth and, as usual, their commitment to more open trade and investment.