President Bush is urging Pacific rim nations to take the lead in world trade talks, and band together to fight global warming and combat terrorism. VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson reports from Sydney the appeal came in a speech to business leaders meeting on the sidelines of the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
President Bush says the Pacific rim can be an agent for change around the world.
He says when it comes to trade, the stakes are high. He says the nations of the Pacific rim - a region which accounts for nearly half of all international trade - have the clout to move the stalled world trade talks forward. "The United States has both the will and the flexibility to help conclude a successful Doha Round, and we urge all our APEC partners to joint us in this vital effort," he said.
Mr. Bush acknowledges that the notion of free trade has many critics who charge it costs jobs in industrialized nations and takes advantage of the poorest of the poor in developing countries. He says the business community - one of the greatest proponents of free trade - has an obligation to educate the public. "I hope you understand this: the surest road to stagnation and instability is the path of isolation and protectionism. The only road to enduring prosperity and stability is though open markets and open trade," he said.
Trade is a top item on the agenda for the APEC summit in Sydney, along with climate change.
In his remarks to business leaders, Mr. Bush endorsed the call for a coordinated APEC approach. And he denied the United States - which did not ratify the internationally negotiated Kyoto Protocol - is trying to push its own plan of action on others. "We agree that these issues must be addressed in an integrated way. The work we do here at APEC will make an important contribution to the global discussions in the U.N. about a new framework on energy security and climate change," he said.
The president also talked about security matters. He spoke optimistically about the battle against extremists and terrorists in Iraq. And he called the fight against terrorism in the Asia-Pacific region one of the untold success stories of the war on terror.
Mr. Bush said freedom has transformed the region - making specific mention of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. But he stressed much more remains to be done. "We must work for the day when the people North Korea enjoy the same freedoms as the citizens of their democratic neighbors. We must press the regime in Burma to stop arresting, harassing and assaulting pro-democracy activists for organizing or participating in peaceful demonstrations," he said.
President Bush went on to say China must open up its political system and allow more freedoms. And he said he will continue to work with Russia to advance shared interests, while encouraging Moscow to respect the checks and balances essential to democracy.
Mr. Bush confers with Russian President Vladimir Putin just prior to the official start of the APEC summit. He met on Thursday with Chinese President Hu Jintao.