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APEC Leaders to Focus on Creating Economic Growth at Singapore Meeting

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The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum has started annual meetings of leaders in Singapore. The APEC forum will bring together leaders from 21 of the world's largest economies to work toward improving trade and world growth.

The APEC leaders' week started Sunday in Singapore with meetings of senior officials.

They discussed working toward a global economic recovery and making world growth more inclusive.

Michael Tay is Executive Director of this year's APEC Secretariat in Singapore. He says globalization has produced great rewards for APEC economies. But he says the global financial crisis has shown there are also large imbalances to be addressed.

"So, [the] central theme for this year's APEC discussions will be inclusive growth," he said. "How do you draw in the people who have suffered from the crisis? How do you rebalance that divide? And, on a larger level, how do you close the gap between the developing economies of APEC with the developed economies of APEC."

APEC's 21 members include wealthy countries such as Australia, the United States, and Japan as well as developing nations such as the Philippines, and Peru.

Tay says the global economic crisis that started in the United States has brought attention to the Asian economies that are expected to drive world growth.

"APEC has most of the fast growing economies in this part of the world," he said. "We have China of course and Vietnam, Korea and Singapore, Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand."

The other APEC members are Brunei, Canada, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and Russia.

The senior officials meeting Sunday talked about improving trade between their Pacific Rim economies by simplifying documentation requirements and procedures.

They also discussed moving toward a free trade area for the Asia Pacific.

The eight days of meetings in Singapore will include meetings of finance, trade, and foreign ministers and end with a summit of APEC leaders, including President Obama-who will make his first trip to Asia as president.

Tay says Mr. Obama's participation in the APEC meetings is a strong symbol of the United States' commitment to the region.

"There is a perception that President Obama brings with him a sensibility and sensitivity to the region and I think that will stand him in very good stead because there is already a very strong expectation that President Obama will set a new direction for US policy towards its partners, towards APEC, and in particular towards Asia."

On the sidelines of the APEC meetings, Mr. Obama will, for the first time, meet with leaders from all ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, including Burma.

The United States has recently changed its Burma policy from isolating the military government to direct engagement in hopes that it will improve its human rights and allow for democracy.