APEC vows to hike trade amid fear of weak growth

Bloomberg

Asia-Pacific leaders warned global growth is too weak as they pledged to boost trade and investment while avoiding protectionism to support their economies.

As the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum concluded in Bali, leaders released a statement saying they will drive a global recovery, in part by implementing “prudent and responsible” economic policies. Many of them will now head to Brunei for a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Leaders of the APEC nations sought momentum at the talks for a variety of trade deals, in particular the Trans-Pacific Partnership, to shore up their economies as an uneven global recovery and volatility in financial markets constrain growth. The statement did not mention progress on specific pacts with the meeting overshadowed by the absence of U.S. President Barack Obama and as several leaders warned the 12-nation TPP may miss a yearend deadline for completion.

“Global growth is too weak, risks remain tilted to the downside, global trade is weakening and the economic outlook suggests growth is likely to be slower and less-balanced than desired,” leaders said in the statement.

Slowdowns in China and India are reverberating across the region with the Asian Development Bank forecasting expansion at a four-year low in 2013, putting pressure on policymakers to bolster their economies. The Group of 20 countries repeated their concern last month that stimulus pullbacks in developed nations may prove damaging to global markets.

The APEC leaders said they recognized the need to be vigilant against protectionism.

“While trade growth and investment flows within the APEC region have outperformed the rest of the world, we should nevertheless guard against the pressure to raise new trade and investment barriers,” they said.

“Some are witnessing protectionism in some economies,” Indonesia Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan said Monday in Bali. “The spirit of fighting against protectionism is highly up there in the past couple of days.”

Obama’s decision to skip the APEC meeting amid the U.S. government shutdown may impact the TPP talks, Rintaro Tamaki, deputy secretary-general at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, said Tuesday.