Asia-Pacific leaders vow to work for freer trade

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Yokohama: Asia-Pacific leaders endorsed a blueprint for future growth on November 14 that calls for pushing ahead with free trade agreements and rolling back protectionist measures put in place during the financial crisis.

Wrapping up the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the leaders of 21 economies put aside differences over currency policies  to voice a strong commitment to increasing the trade and investment crucial to the region’s growth and resilience.

Leaders representing the US, China, Japan, Russia and other regional economies also agreed on the need to reduce trade imbalances and government debt and avoid sharp, potentially disruptive fluctuations in exchange rates.

While many participants remained at odds over currency policies and other issues, they appeared to agree on the vital role freer trade can play in sparking growth.

“We reaffirm our unwavering commitment to achieving  free and open trade and investment in the region,” the leaders said in a declaration released after the talks ended on November 14.

The leaders also agreed to take “concrete steps toward realizing a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific,” but set no timetable. The declaration said this goal should build on regional groupings such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a US-backed free trade agreement that nine APEC members are negotiating.

At APEC, leaders of the world’s three largest eco-nomies pledged on November 13 not to backslide into retaliatory trade tactics, a day after discord over such issues marred the meeting of the group of 20 major economies in Seoul, South Korea.

The 21 APEC members, whose economies account for more than half of all world commerce, have agreed to refrain from imposing any fresh barriers to trade and investment, or measures to stimulate exports, until the end of 2013.

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