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The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), once derided as “four adjectives in search of a noun,” is a study in frustration. APEC’s strongest asset is also its greatest weakness. The group is made up of 21 member economies that account for 41 percent of the world’s output and 50 percent of world trade. That gives APEC decisions considerable impact worldwide. Those members also encompass extraordinary diversity, ranging from the world’s richest countries to some of the poorest; they occupy virtually every rung on the ladder of development. As a result, finding common ground for policy decisions is difficult as was evident at last week’s Leaders’ Meeting in Sydney. A summit that had raised hopes of tackling pressing issues like climate change and reinvigorating the global trade agenda foundered on the group’s diversity and a seeming lack of political will to make hard choices.

There is no mistaking the most important issues on the APEC agenda. If the steady stream of international meetings and reports on the growing seriousness of climate change has not claimed the leaders’ attention, then the plea from APEC business leaders for a clear framework so that they could make investment plans should have done the trick.

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