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APEC Defends Free Trade Stand at Summit in Peru


Pacific Rim leaders are endorsing steps they hope will increase trade and boost the ailing global economy. VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson reports from the Asia Pacific summit in Lima, Peru.

Leaders from across the Pacific Rim - which accounts for roughly half of the world economy - are declaring war on protectionism.

They say for the next year - no matter how bad things get - they will refrain from raising any new barriers to trade and investment.

In a joint declaration, the 21 members of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum also pledged to push for revival of world trade negotiations that collapsed in July.

Throughout this summit, leader after leader has warned of the perils of protectionism.

In a speech to a meeting of corporate executives - held concurrently with the summit of presidents and prime ministers - U.S. President George Bush warned of a pending disaster if the nations of the world respond to the global financial crisis by turning inward. He invoked the turmoil of the economic depression that began in 1929. "One of the enduring lessons of the Great Depression is that global protectionism is a path to global economic ruin," he said.

In taking these steps, APEC leaders endorsed the principles outlined last weekend at a meeting in Washington of the world's 20 largest industrial and emerging economies.

Nine of the Pacific Rim leaders now in Lima attended the Washington gathering - including Russian President Dmitri Medvedev.

When the formal APEC discussions ended Saturday, he sat down for a one-on-one meeting with President Bush. It was their first such encounter since Russia invaded Georgia in August.

Neither man mentioned Georgia in brief comments to reporters. Instead, they talked about the nature of the U.S. Russia relationship. President Bush spoke first. "We have had our agreements. We have had our disagreements. I have tried to work hard to make it a cordial relationship, though, so that when we need to work together we can and when we disagree we are able to do so in a way that is respectful to our two nations," he said.

The Russian president struck a similar chord. He too spoke of differences and agreements, stressing the importance of continued dialogue.

White House Press Secretary Dana Perino later described their talks as cordial, but honest. She said they discussed their differences on Georgia, and the need to work together on Iran.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Bush met behind closed doors with the President of South Korea and the Prime Minister of Japan - talks that focused on North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Perino said everyone involved in the six-party talks with North Korea has agreed to resume negotiations in early December. She said a specific date would be announced by China, the host country for the talks with Pyongyang.

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