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APEC pledges 'new commitment' to Asia-Pacific development
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The 16th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit concluded Sunday in the Peruvian capital with the leaders pledging "a new commitment" to jointly tackling the global financial crisis, regional economic integration and corporate social responsibility.

Financial crisis

The leaders issued a special statement on the financial crisis Saturday, vowing to take action "individually and collectively" to restore confidence in their economies and keep the region moving along the path of long-term growth.

"We have already taken urgent and extraordinary steps to stabilize our financial sectors and strengthen economic growth and promote investment and consumption," the statement said.

"We will continue to take such steps and work closely, in a coordinated and comprehensive manner, to implement future actions to address this crisis," it added.

The leaders specifically pledged support for efforts by export credit agencies, international financial institutions and private banks to ensure that adequate finance is available to businesses, including small and medium-sized enterprises, and to keep trade and investment flowing in the region.

They also welcomed continued development and innovation in the financial sector, while calling for more effective regulatory and supervisory tools as financial systems become more complex.

The APEC leaders also expressed support for the Washington Declaration adopted at the Group of 20 summit earlier this month and the common principles that will guide the Action Plan for financial markets reform.

As one of the world's biggest regional blocs with a wide geographical span and huge diversity among its members, APEC has sent a strong signal that world economies are ready to do everything possible to stave off the crisis and restore market confidence, analysts say.

Free trade

During the meeting, the leaders highlighted the urgency to curb any upturn of protectionism that could arise from the crisis and exacerbate the current economic situation.

The leaders reiterated their "firm belief that free market principles, and open trade and investment regimes will continue to drive global growth, employment and poverty reduction."

On Saturday, they promised not to raise new barriers to investment and trade in the next 12 months.

"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," the statement said.

On the Doha round of trade talks, APEC leaders expressed their hope for "an ambitious and balanced conclusion" to lay the foundation for the economic growth and prosperity in the region.

"We are committed to reach agreement on modalities next month on the basis of progress made to date," they added.

The strong call by the leaders for free trade and rejection of protectionism indicates that world economies are determined to prevent a repeat of the Great Depression of the 1930s when "a wrong approach" was taken, as U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said.

Corporate social responsibility 

One of the highlights of the APEC Leaders' Week from Nov.16-23 was the leaders' efforts to explore the social dimension of APEC, especially corporate social responsibility, amid the crisis.

"The crisis also highlights the need to develop more effective standards of corporate governance and risk management as well as the importance of social responsibility in the financial sector," the statement said.

The leaders urged companies to incorporate social responsibility into their business strategies to take account of social, labor and environmental concerns.

Such a move is likely to boost confidence among investors and consumers who have accused some companies of a reckless pursuit of profits, which triggered the financial meltdown, analysts say.

However, it remains to be seen how companies across the world can promote the practice "on a voluntary basis" as stated in the Lima Declaration issued Sunday.

More stringent measures need to be taken to prevent a repeat of the economic turmoil, critics say.

As APEC leaders largely refrained from digging into details of the pledged action before a new U.S. president takes office next January, world economies should remain strongly vigilant about the ongoing financial storm, which may get worse before it can get any better, analysts say.

(Xinhua News Agency November 24, 2008)

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