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APEC seeks new strategy

US China reject trade protectionism:

SINGAPORE: Asia-Pacific leaders including the US and Chinese Presidents Sunday pledged to reject trade protectionism and pursue a new strategy for growth after the world’s worst economic crisis in decades.

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum leaders, who together steer more than half the global economy, also said they would persist with hefty stimulus spending “until a durable economic recovery has clearly taken hold”.

US President Barack Obama pressed Asian leaders at the weekend summit in Singapore to retool their export-led economies and rebalance world growth, or risk a “drift from crisis to crisis”.

But Obama was subject to much criticism in Singapore over his perceived neglect of free trade, with Congress and powerful Democratic barons in the trade union movement clamouring to protect US industry as joblessness soars.

In a concluding declaration, the leaders said: “We firmly reject all forms of protectionism and reaffirm our commitment to keep markets open and refrain from raising new barriers to investment or to trade in goods and services.”

“We cannot go back to ‘growth as usual’,” they added. “We need a new growth paradigm. We need a fresh model of economic integration.

“We will pursue growth which is balanced, inclusive and sustainable, supported by innovation and a knowledge-based economy, to ensure a durable recovery that will create jobs and benefit our people.”

The summit’s chairman, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, explained that “sustainable” growth meant working for an “ambitious outcome” at Copenhagen climate talks next month. But a hastily convened climate discussion in Singapore among key leaders — including Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao, representing the world’s two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases — failed to yield any breakthrough. If thin on specifics, the APEC declaration was a nod to Obama’s demand that US consumers must no longer bear the brunt of stoking world demand, and that Asians must start to spend and not hoard their export earnings.

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