The annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit is roundly dismissed — like so many other top-level multilateral meetings — as a glorified photo-op. But there was more hope than usual that this year’s meeting would break the pattern and even produce concrete results. The positive role played by Asian nations in helping recovery from the global economic crisis created optimism about APEC’s potential. The fact that Singapore was hosting this year’s meeting added to expectations: While small, the city-state has excelled at driving unwieldy institutions, producing results out of sheer determination. Finally, the presence of U.S. President Barack Obama was also thought to add new luster to this year’s meeting.

Alas, tradition proved hard to overcome. This year’s APEC meeting was no more notable than its predecessors, yielding a final declaration that recapitulates the usual rhetoric — a commitment to free trade, a rejection of protectionism, a recognition of the need for a long-term growth strategy that respects the diversity of APEC’s members. Echoing recent G20 statements,the group pledged to continue economic stimulus packages until there is a durable and sustainable recovery. And, like the G20, the assembled leaders acknowledged that “growth as usual” is no longer an answer. “We need a fresh growth paradigm. We need a fresh model of economic integration.”

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