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No concrete plans from APEC summit

President Obama met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the APEC summit in Japan. President Obama met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the APEC summit in Japan. (Ria Novosti via Associated Press)
International Herald Tribune / November 15, 2010

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YOKOHAMA, Japan — President Obama and Pacific Rim leaders wrapped up a two-day meeting yesterday with pledges to rectify global economic imbalances and move toward creating a regional free trade zone, but there were few concrete gains.

For Obama, it was also the end of a 10-day diplomatic and economic journey through Asia that failed to complete a free trade pact with South Korea.

In Yokohama, Obama and leaders of 20 other nations and territories in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum agreed to seek a free trade zone but set no timetable. They cited the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-trade agreement that currently includes Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, and Singapore, as a possible starting point. The leaders, whose nations account for more than half of global economic activity, also agreed to remove protectionist measures and to avoid sudden, sharp moves in foreign exchange markets.

While APEC leaders mentioned the need to correct imbalances in trade and other areas, they avoided the rancor of the Group of 20 meeting in Seoul last week. They shied away from singling out China for its policy of holding down its currency, or the United States for its recent monetary easing, which some nations criticized for driving down the dollar.

Obama, who has made evening out trade imbalances and doubling US exports a centerpiece of his economic agenda, is hoping the meeting in Yokohama will lay the groundwork for next year, when the forum meets in Hawaii.