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APEC leaders to seek consensus amid financial meltdown
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Leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member economies are meeting Saturday in the Peruvian capital Lima for their annual summit, raising fresh hopes of restoring market confidence in the teeth of the ongoing financial storm.

Bolder actions?

The 21-member APEC is expected to take some coordinated and bolder actions to tackle the global financial crisis.

As one of the world's biggest regional blocs with a wide geographical span and great diversity among its members, APEC will send a strong signal on how the world deals with the global financial problem, analysts say.

Peruvian President Alan Garcia has called APEC "the best tool the world economy has" against the crisis, given the robust manufacturing and trade among the Asia-Pacific member economies.

APEC represents the most economically dynamic region in the world, with its member economies accounting for approximately 41 percent of the world's population, about 56 percent of world GDP and nearly half of world trade.

On Thursday, APEC foreign and trade ministers called for joint efforts to overcome the ongoing global financial crisis and revive the Doha Round trade negotiations.

"Ensuring a rapid, coordinated and effective response to the current global financial crisis is the highest priority for APEC economies and will be the focus of attention" when APEC leaders meet on the weekend, said the ministers in a joint statement.

"APEC economies are committed to implementing all necessary measures to bolster the real economy and boost investment and consumption levels in the region," it said.

APEC leaders are expected to issue a special declaration on the ongoing financial crisis as a "complement" to the action plan adopted by G20 countries in Washington earlier this month. Nine of the G20 nations, including the United States and China, are members of the APEC.

Doha talks

Apart from the financial crisis, the leaders are also expected to discuss the stalled WTO Doha Round talks among other issues such as climate change, energy and food security.

Some leaders have hoped to seek a framework of agreement on the Doha Round by the end of this year as part of a strategy to tackle the financial crisis.

However, "intensive work" is still needed to make a breakthrough in this regard, said Elizabeth Chelliah, chairwoman of the APEC Committee on Trade and Investment.

A repeated failure to clinch a deal on the multilateral trade talks would be a heavy blow to market confidence, which is key to overcome the ongoing crisis, analysts say.

APEC ministers have shown strong determination to seek a final agreement on the Doha talks at an early date.

Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean noted that APEC ministers not only have reached a consensus on pushing forward the Doha talks but also on how to conclude it.

Senior officials of the WTO members are urged to meet in Geneva over the weekend to prepare for a meeting for trade ministers to address the issue.

The Doha talks, which started in 2001, has been deadlocked over the past seven years and repeatedly missed deadlines. The latest setback came in July when WTO trade ministers failed to wrap up the negotiations due to disagreements between the Untied States and India on a special safeguard mechanism for agricultural products of developing countries.

Building confidence

Despite various economic stimulus plans by some nations to thaw off credit squeeze and pledges by the G20 countries to strengthen financial oversight, there is no easing sign of the grave financial situation.

Japan, the world's second biggest economy, has officially slid into recession for the first time since 2001, according to government data issued earlier this week.

The recession of Japan, along with the 15-nation euro-zone, is largely attributed to a sharp cutback in corporate investment amid diminishing domestic and global demand, analysts say.

Adding to the concerns is the fragility of emerging economies amid the unfolding global financial crisis that has threatened to affect the real economies.

Some developing countries, including APEC members Mexico,Indonesia and Thailand, have seen a sharp decline in exports and foreign direct investments.

Chinese President Hu Jintao has called for special attention to the developing and poor nations during the financial crisis.

The United States has so far shied away from making any commitment to reforming global institutions such as International Monetary Fund and World Bank as critics have long called for increasing participation by emerging economies in these bodies.

It remained to be seen how the APEC economies will overcome their diverse political and economic backgrounds to join hands in dealing with the crisis.

Established in 1989, APEC groups Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, China's Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.

(Xinhua News Agency November 22, 2008)

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