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Bush Pushes Free Markets, Trade At Pacific Rim Summit

U.S. President George Bush says the nations of the world must band together to combat the global financial crisis. And he is pushing free markets and free trade as the key to an international economic recovery. VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson reports the comments came in a speech to business leaders in Lima, Peru, just prior to the start of the annual Pacific Rim summit.

President Bush is urging countries to band together in the face of this economic crisis. He says the worst thing they can do is turn inward.

He says industrialized and developing nations all have a stake in healing the world's economic ills. "Nations are feeling the painful effects of the economic crisis. I understand that, and so all of us need to be involved in the solution," he said.

Mr. Bush says he will urge the 21-member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum to join the effort, noting that the participants account for more than 50 percent of the world economy.

"We are witnessing a dramatic shift of history as the center of the world economic stage moves from West to East, from the Atlantic to the Pacific," he said. "Some view the rise of the Asia Pacific [region] with suspicion and fear. America doesn't."

The president says continuing that engagement is even more important at a time of economic strain. He points to the growth in the number of free trade agreements signed since he took office, And he emphasizes the need to push ahead with negotiations to complete a global free-trade agreement - the so-called Doha Round.

"I recognize I am leaving office in two months," said President Bush. "But nevertheless, this administration will push hard to put the modalities in place so Doha can be completed and so we can send the message that we refuse to accept protectionism in the 21st century."

This is likely to be Mr. Bush's last formal summit as president of the United States, and his final trip abroad.

As he wrapped up his speech in Lima, he recalled his first APEC meeting. It was held in Shanghai, China roughly two months after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. Mr. Bush said then as now, in the midst of a financial crisis, the nations of the Pacific Rim are standing together.

"The bonds of unity we felt then remain today," he said. "And they will always remain. Long after this crisis has passed, the United States of America will stay engaged in this region."

In addition to the formal APEC forum sessions, President Bush is also meeting on the sidelines with other world leaders. It is a chance for them to exchange farewells and best wishes for the future. But White House officials stress Mr. Bush is going into these talks with a full agenda - from discussions of North Korea's nuclear program, to the dispute with Russia over U.S. plans to build a missile defense system in Europe.