Nusa Dua, Indonesia - Asia-Pacific leaders convened on Monday for a summit in Indonesia aimed at advancing trade and investment liberalisation amid a regional economic slowdown.
Indonesian Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono opened the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit on the resort island of Bali with calls for closer cooperation in the region.
“We all feel the pain of the crisis,” Yudhoyono said. “It is therefore important to develop closer cooperation towards accelerating economic growth and global recovery.”
The leaders from the 21 APEC members economies were expected to discuss goals to reduce trade and investment barriers and speed up regional economic integration and infrastructure development.
Among leaders attending were Chinese President Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was expected to arrive Monday.
US President Barack Obama cancelled his attendance as well visits to Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei because of a domestic political crisis over the federal budget with Congress that resulted in a partial government shutdown.
Secretary of State John Kerry was appointed to represent Obama at the gathering.
“It's a very big disappointment to us that President Obama is unable to visit,” Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.
But “obviously we prefer a US government which is working to one which is not,” Lee told a business forum on Sunday on the sidelines on the Bali meeting.
The APEC members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.
Twelve of those countries were expected to seek progress in Bali for a sweeping free-trade pact called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker told reporters in Bali on Sunday that delegates were making “great progress,” and have reached agreement on some former sticking points.
The US has pushed to secure a deal by the end of the year on the TPP, which it says would set a standard for 21st-century trade agreements, but Obama's absence in Bali has raised doubts as to the timetable.
Japan wants to protect its farming industry while Malaysia insists on keeping tobacco control measures out of the deal.
Civil society groups have said stringent intellectual property provisions proposed by the US would block access to medicines for millions of poor people in both developed and developing countries.
The 12 countries involved in the TPP talks on the sidelines of the APEC meeting are the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Chile, Canada, Mexico and Peru. - Sapa-dpa