The summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum has opened in Santiago, Chile, where President Bush called on his Pacific Rim counterparts to work together in creating a world of greater freedom and prosperity.
The leaders of 21 Asia and Pacific economies began their summit meeting with discussions ranging from reducing trade barriers to controlling the spread of infectious diseases and fighting terrorism. In his speech at the opening ceremony, President Bush emphasized the importance of the region to the United States. "Our APEC partners account for nearly two thirds of all American imports and exports. America's future is inseparable from our friends in the Pacific and, by working together, and by continuing to foster reasonable pro-growth economic policies, the fellowship of Pacific nations will continue to be strong. That is what I am here to tell you," he said.
Mr. Bush said all nations will be more prosperous by opening their markets and by promoting freedom for their citizens. He also welcomed the cooperation of the Asian and Pacific nations in promoting security and fighting terrorism.
The president also hailed the support of five APEC nations that are involved with the United States in trying to convince North Korea and its communist leader, Kim Jong Il, to abandon that nation's nuclear weapon program. Mr. Bush said the united front is a welcome approach in dealing with this problem. "The message is clear to Mr. Kim Jong Il," he said. "Get rid of your nuclear weapons programs!"
The main purpose of this APEC summit is to promote the development of an Asia-Pacific free trade zone in the coming years. APEC members are also expressing support for completion of the so-called Doha round of World Trade Organization negotiations aimed at removing trade barriers.
The APEC summit comes to a close Sunday after an official luncheon and the reading of the summit's final declaration. President Bush will wrap up his visit to Santiago with bilateral meetings with his Chilean host, President Ricardo Lagos, and with Mexican President Vicente Fox. Mr. Bush travels on to Colombia on Monday for an official visit with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.