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APEC looks to freer trade for future growth

2009-11-12 09:13:31Source:Shanghai DailyAuthor:

Asia-Pacific ministers warned yesterday that signs of recovery in the global economy are merely a respite, and future growth hinges on freer trade and improved social safety nets in Asia.

Finance and foreign ministers meeting in Singapore for this week's annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting are considering ways to keep economic recovery going once lavish stimulus spending ebbs.

The forum culminates in a weekend summit of heads of state from APEC's 21 economies, including Chinese President Hu Jintao and US President Barack Obama.

Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo said the economic crisis is "by no means over."

"There is creeping protectionism now; that is very dangerous. It is a slippery slope, and if we're not careful, before we know it, all of us will be in a much more dire situation," he told reporters after hosting a breakfast meeting with foreign ministers.

Reforms needed

Yeo said the ministers agreed the economic crisis is in a respite, but recovery remains fragile.

The Pacific Economic Cooperation Council, an APEC-affiliated think tank, stressed the need for fundamental reforms to shift growth away from a dependence on exports to the US.

"US consumers are not likely to drive world demand in the medium term, and the slack will have to be taken up in part by Asian consumption and investment," Peter Petri, a Brandeis University professor who coordinated a regional task force on the economic crisis, said.

Freer trade is a part of that push. APEC was founded 20 years ago to help promote greater trade and integration around the Pacific Rim ?? an aim that remains vital today.

Boosting exports is the "best ticket" to creating jobs, ending the recession and bringing massive deficits under control, said Thomas J. Donohue, president of the US Chamber of Commerce, urging American leaders to recognize the urgency of dismantling trade barriers.

New 'engines'

"Expanding free trade across the Pacific can drive the global economic recovery, create badly needed jobs and advance economic and social progress in developing and developed countries alike," he said in a speech to business leaders on the sidelines of the APEC meeting.

The think tank survey found that many leaders believe the engines of growth are changing, a trend long anticipated but accelerated by the relatively strong recent performances of developing Asian nations, especially China and India.

"They are very conscious that the US is not going to be the growth engine for the foreseeable future, and they are thinking very hard of how to find other ways to generate growth," said Yuen Pau Woo, who coordinated the report.