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Free trade should top APEC economic leaders’ agenda

The stalled Doha Round negotiations of the World Trade Organizations should top the agenda of the APEC economic leaders when they meet here this week, according to a survey released here Wednesday.

This was closely followed by a desire to see progress on a free trade area for the Asia-Pacific Region, energy security, strengthen APEC and climate change, indicated the survey of close to 400 business leaders, government officials and analysts in the region. The survey is part of an annual report on the State of the Region, produced by the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council, one of APEC’s main policy advisers. “The survey results nevertheless suggest a desire on the part of opinion leaders for more tangible actions towards free and open trade in the Asia-Pacific,” said Yuen Pau Woo, the coordinator of the survey.

More than 70% of the respondents in the survey identified protectionism as a risk to economic growth in the region in the short and medium term. “The threat of protectionism is particularly acute at a time of financial market volatility and economic slowdown in North,” he said. The survey also showed that respondents were more concerned about an economic slowdown in China than in the United States. “A majority of respondents believe that a slowdown in China will have a greater impact on East Asia than a slowdown in the United States,” said the survey.

APEC accounts for nearly half of the world’s trade, and its members include: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, China’s Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam. (