Pacific rim leaders push for free trade

The promises not to backslide into retaliatory trade tactics came at an annual summit of Pacific  rim leaders, just a day after a divisive summit of the Group of 20 major economies in South Korea.

Speaking to a conference on the sidelines of the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Yokohama, Chinese President Hu Jintao vowed to keep his country’s markets open and seek more balanced trade, while gradually adjusting the value of the Chinese currency — which Washington complains is undervalued.

Open markets support

Though they may differ over details, the leaders from APEC — which represents more than half of global economic production and two-fifths of world trade — appear united in supporting more open markets.

Hu and his host, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, held a 22-minute meeting Saturday on the sidelines of APEC summit.

The main focus of APEC meetings will be devising ways to leverage more open trade for the sake of future growth. During their summit, the leaders are expected to agree to take concrete steps toward a Pacific-wide free trade zone that would slash tariffs and other barriers to exports.

Kan has promised to further open Japan’s sluggish economy, despite protests from farmers who fear the loss of subsidies and protective tariffs.

“We have to grow with the fast developing economies of the Asia-Pacific,” Kan said. “We will liberalize our trade.”

The leaders’ draft statement notes a need to reduce trade imbalances and government debt to help ensure stable and sustainable economic growth, and includes a pledge to move toward more “market-determined exchange rate systems.”

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