From Left: Sumitomo Chemical Chairman Hiromasa Yonekura greets New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key as Indonesia’s Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan greets former US Trade Representative Susan Schwab beside FedEx CEO Michael Ducker at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO Summit on the Indonesian resort island of Bali yesterday.
BALI: Fighting protectionism and pushing through difficult reforms are critical to the global recovery as the world’s biggest economies struggle with their own internal obstacles to growth, Asia-Pacific leaders gathered for an annual summit said yesterday.
With US President Barack Obama bogged down in the domestic drama over the national budget and government shutdown, national leaders at the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum were watching to see how the biggest economies fare. Obama cancelled his trip to the APEC meeting on the Indonesian resort island of Bali because of the budget impasse.
“Obviously we prefer a US government which is working to one which is not,” said Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. “It’s a very big disappointment to us that President Obama is unable to visit.”
The 21 nations and territories that make up APEC range from tiny Brunei to the US and China, the world’s two biggest economies. They have great disparities in wealth and economic development but combined the grouping accounts for more than 3 billion people and over half of global GDP.
A two-day CEOs conference is being held alongside APEC, resulting in an influx of private jets. Bali’s governor Made Mangku Pastika said many are being parked at other nearby Indonesian airports to avoid congestion on Bali.
Lee pointed to the US budget battles, Europe’s lingering financial crisis, China’s reform challenges as its breakneck expansion slows and Japan’s effort to emerge from more than two decades of stagnation as key risks to global growth.
“America has to continue to be engaged in this region, because it plays a very important role that no other country can replace. Not China. Not Japan. Not any other power,” Lee said.
Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono urged the more than 1,200 business and political leaders in Bali to do more to counter the economic headwinds confronting developing countries by dismantling barriers to trade and investment.
Trade deficits, capital flight and weakening currencies threaten to undo progress among developing economies in the region against the backdrop of a fragile and uneven global recovery.
His call to guard against pressures to raise trade barriers was consistent with a draft of the APEC leaders’ declaration, seen by The Associated Press, which is set to be released at the end of the summit.
“APEC is in the ideal position to help the recovery of the global economy,” said Yudhoyono, emphasizing the importance of preventing protectionism and opening markets further to maximize prosperity.