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Obama to host Apec summit focusing on global crisis

Category: Business

Published: 12th Nov 2011 03:10:01

US President Barack Obama has gone to Hawaii, where this weekend he is hosting leaders from Asia Pacific countries at the annual Apec summit.

The heads of state are expected to discuss how to tackle the global financial crisis.

In particular, they are looking to protect the region from Europe's economic difficulties.

President Obama is hoping to establish a free trade zone with several countries in the region.

The 21 members of Apec account for about 40% of the world's population and 44% of global trade.

The meeting, which brings together leaders from Russia to Chile, is focused on creating jobs and business through measures like investment in infrastructure.

The BBC's Kim Ghattas in Washington says the United States sees Asia as essential to America's future, both economically and strategically.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in opening a meeting of foreign and economic ministers in Honolulu that many forces outside the Pacific region would have an impact on it.

"Global trends and world events have given us a full and formidable agenda," she said. "And the stakes are high for all of us."

The free trade area around the Pacific rim, or Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) currently includes Chile, New Zealand, Brunei and Singapore - all relatively small economies.

The US, Australia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Peru are negotiating to join.

And Japan, the world's third largest economy, has now said it also wants to join the talks, which are likely to take place on the sidelines of the summit.

The announcement was made by the Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda, before setting off for the APEC summit in Hawaii.

The question of whether to take part in the talks has split the governing Democratic Party of Japan.

The TPP could transform Japan's stagnant economy by helping its exporters get more access to the dynamic markets of Asia.

In principle it would eliminate all trade barriers between Japan and the nine other nations involved.

But it would also expose Japanese farmers - up to now protected by some of the highest tariffs in the world - to competition.

Lobby groups have warned agriculture could be ruined and there have been protests in Tokyo.

But the IMF chief, Christine Lagarde, says she welcomed Japan's decision to enter talks towards an Asia-Pacific free trade deal.

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