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Australia Calls for New Asia-Pacific Trading Block Ahead of APEC Summit


Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will push his plan for a European Union-style forum in the Asia-Pacific region at the APEC summit in Peru. Mr. Rudd says early negotiations have been positive. From Sydney, Phil Mercer reports.

Kevin Rudd's long-term vision sees a new Asia-Pacific grouping that would address the region's economic, security and political challenges.

The Australian prime minister believes that establishing a trading bloc would take more than a decade and would include the powerhouse economies of the United States, China and Japan.

Mr. Rudd has been keen to stress that the new union would not be a substitute for any current organization, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

He is keen to promote his idea at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Lima this week. He outlined the plan before departing for Peru in a speech in Canberra.

"Our ambition remains to create an Asia-Pacific community by 2020 that brings together the United States, China, India, Indonesia, Japan and the other countries of the region, with a broad agenda to deal with the political, economic and security challenges of the future," Rudd said. "As we know, no such body in the region does that at present."

Mr. Rudd will join other world leaders at the APEC summit in Peru Saturday and Sunday.

Global economic worries will dominate the APEC talks.

In Asia there was some rare good news as most stock markets rebounded Friday after days of sharp declines. Both Tokyo's Nikkei 225 Index and Hong Kong's Hang Seng were up about three percent. Stock market traders say bargain-hunting investors bought up battered technology and financial stocks.

Despite the gains, market analysts say the outlook remains grim because of signs of a global recession. Some Asian markets retreated further Friday.

There were falls on mainland China's Shanghai Composite index and markets in the Philippines and Indonesia also lost ground.

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