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Pacific Rim Leaders Head to Peru for APEC Summit

Pacific Rim leaders are preparing for their annual economic summit - a meeting sure to be dominated by the need for action to deal with the global financial crisis.
VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson looks ahead to this year's APEC forum in Lima, Peru.

This is expected to be U.S. President George Bush's final trip abroad while in office and his last formal summit.

But aides say Mr. Bush does not see this as a farewell tour. Instead, they say, the President plans to use the summit to draw attention to efforts to stimulate the world economy - especially through expanded free trade.

They say Mr. Bush will seek to build support in APEC - the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum - for measures endorsed last weekend by the leaders of the world's 20 largest economies to prevent a deep global recession.

He is also expected to seek a reduction in trade barriers, and to build on bilateral and regional free trade agreements already in place along the Pacific Rim.

Experts say what is likely to emerge is some sort of statement of aspirations and goals - a result very much in keeping with APEC tradition. It is not a formal organization, but rather a venue for discussion of key economic issues - a chance for leaders across the Pacific Rim to share thoughts and ideas.

Sidney Weintraub is a former senior U.S. State Department official who was involved in the early development of the APEC concept.

"Just by looking at the attendance you're getting at a meeting in Peru in the middle of other crises and other meetings and other summit meetings sort of shows that a lot of the leaders like this particular venue because it is a less pressure-filled venue than you get, for example, at the G-20, which just ended," Weintraub said.

There will also be numerous bilateral discussions on the sidelines of the summit. President Bush, for example, is expected to meet with the leaders of China, South Korea, Japan, Russia and Peru.

Experts in international trade and finance say these types of informal exchanges are key.

"There's always going to be a real value in having the broad-based fora at regional levels, whether it's APEC or the OAS [Organization of American States] or things in East Asia that deal with issues cross-border where you need a broad participation," said Steven Schrage, who is with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

President Bush's initial APEC meeting was in Shanghai, China in November 2001. It was his first trip out of the United States after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and his stay lasted roughly 48 hours.

With a financial crisis unfolding in the United States, this trip will also be brief. Plans for other stops in the region were dropped weeks ago, leaving only the Lima summit on his schedule.