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SINGAPORE (Kyodo) Leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum will give Japan, the next APEC chair, the task of identifying ways for the 21-member grouping to create a free-trade bloc, according to a statement they are expected to issue at their Nov. 14-15 summit in Singapore.

The draft statement said APEC is to come out with the proposals by the end of next year, thus effectively assigning Japan, which holds the APEC chairmanship next year, the task of overseeing that embryonic process of developing a giant free-trade area encompassing a region that already accounts for nearly half the world’s trade.

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