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APEC Leaders Week Opens with Focus on Climate Change, Free Trade

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum launched its 2007 Leaders Week in Sydney on Sunday to discuss a wide range of issues focusing on climate change and free trade.

The Leaders Week started with a two-day APEC Concluding Senior Officials Meeting at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Center. Officials from the 21 APEC members will make final preparations for the APEC Ministerial Meeting, slated for Sept. 5-6, and APEC Economic Leaders Meeting, for Sept. 8-9.

The weeklong meetings will also include a Business Advisory Council meeting, a business summit, and an ABAC dialogue with the economic leaders.

Under the theme of "Strengthening Our Community, Building a Sustainable Future," the leaders, officials and representatives from APEC members will also discuss issues such as energy security, human security, forestry recovery and APEC reform.

At the end of the week, a declaration on climate change could be adopted at the economic leaders meeting to show their determination to tackle the issue.

"The adoption of the declaration would demonstrate the determination and positive attitude of the APEC members to address the challenge and raise public awareness in an aim to boost the regional and international cooperation on the issue," said Chinese assistant foreign minister Sui Tiankai at a recent press conference in Beijing.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said that he hoped to use the annual meeting to create a new approach to tackling the issue of climate change.

"We should strive to find agreement on principles for international action that genuinely address the problem," he said.

The prime minister said that he hoped APEC leaders would also go "beyond agreement on principles" to set a "long-term aspirational goal" for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

As to the issue of trade, the economic leaders are expected to discuss ways to break the current deadlock on the WTO'S Doha Round negotiations.

The APEC ministers responsible for trade, at their 13th meeting in Australia's Cains in July, stated that APEC supports the multilateral trading system and re-affirmed their commitment to a successful conclusion of the Doha round negotiations this year.

It is expected that a statement on the issue will be adopted at the end of the week.

On the sidelines of the APEC meetings, bilateral or multilateral talks will be held among the leaders.

Since its inception in 1989 in response to the growing interdependence among Asia-Pacific economies, APEC has become a formidable regional forum acting as the primary regional vehicle for promoting open trade and practical economic and technical cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.

The gross domestic product (GDP) of the APEC region has increased three-fold to US$37.3 trillion since 1989, Australian Minister for Trade Warren Truss said in a Saturday report released on the eve of the APEC meetings.

In 1989, APEC economies had a per capita GDP of US$5,205 which was on par with the world average. But in 2006, its per capita GDP reached almost US$14,000, compared with US$10,305 for the world's average, Truss said.

The APEC economic growth has delivered benefits to almost 3 billion people in the region, Truss said.

(Xinhua News Agency September 3, 2007)

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