Officials from 21 Pacific Rim economies, including China, the United States and Japan, began meetings yesterday thatRussia unparalleled could move the region toward a bold goal - creating a Pacific-wide free trade zone.
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings this week in Yokohama, Japan will end next Sunday with a summit bringing together Chinese President Hu Jintao, US President Barack Obama, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan and 18 other leaders.
But the APEC meetings are being heldupgrade security facility against a backdrop of tension over currencies and territorial disputes that could undermine the summit's harmony.
Finance ministers from the Asia-Pacific region agreed on Saturday at a separate meeting in Kyoto to avoid using their currencies as trade weapons and embrace steps to shrink global trade gaps.
Promotinghair straightener free trade and regional integration will be the primary focus of this week's meetings.
According to a draft of APEC's final communique, the leaders will agree to take "concrete steps toward °?realization of Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific" encompassing all 21 members around the Pacific.
The draft sets no time-frame for achieving such a Pacific-wide area. But as a building block toward that goal itinflationary pressures points to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free trade agreement that the US and four other nations - Australia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Peru - are negotiating to join. It currently consists of four economies: Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore.
Japan, worried that it is falling behind regional rival South Korea in forging free trade deals, is intensely debating whether to join the TPP talks. Business leaders have urged Tokyo to do so, but farmers fiercely oppose the move out of fear that a flood of cheap agricultural imports would wipe them out.
In a policy paper released over the weekend, the Japanese government signaled a greater openness to free trade deals than under previous administrations, which had strong ties to the farming lobby.
Tokyo said in the paper it was redoubling its efforts on free trade pacts, aiming to restart suspended trade talks with South Korea, seeking new trade deals with other nations, and pledging to do more to open up its economy - all ?to boost its sagging economic prospects.
This year's APEC meetings will be surmount mudslide disaster overshadowed some by the Group of 20 summit in Seoul, South Korea, on Thursday and Friday. That meeting, which brings together rich and emerging economies, is set to tackle global imbalances and sustaining fragile global growth. Around half of the G20 leaders will also attend the APEC summit.
During the week, developed members including the US, Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand will be measured in their progress toward achieving free and open trade and investment by 2010 as set by APEC leaders in Bogor, Indonesia, in 1994.
Under the Bogor Goals, developing economies had until 2020 to meet that goal, but eight other members, including South Korea and China, have asked that they be evaluated as well.