Apec meeting yields much heat but little light
LEADERS of Asia-Pacific nations posed for their "family portrait" on Wednesday after a two-day summit pledging to combat global recession and ease the social problems it has caused.
But they failed to produce any concrete initiatives of the sort needed to tackle the most pressing problems the region has faced in decades.
The meeting limped to its finale, never recovering from the bruising row between the US and hosts Malaysia over Vice-President Al Gore's ardent support for Malaysia's reform movement.
"We need to deal urgently with the financial crisis which has spread beyond the region . . . We are resolved to work together to support an early and sustained recovery," leaders of the 21 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) forum said in their joint declaration.
It said the prescriptions for stricken economies set out in a £100-billion International Monetary Fund rescue packages ounds would be followed.
Although it called for better regulation of global financial markets, it ignored the issue of restrictions on the activities of hedge funds, as proposed by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has blamed speculators for the recession.
It also failed to achieve its only clear purpose - liberalising trade - when Japan refused to reduce tariffs on fisheries and forestry, stalling a programme worth hundreds of billions of dollars in trade.
Although Japan and the US unveiled a £6.25-billion aid package, it was dismissed as a fraction of the debt relief struggling countries need.
Other leaders joined Mahathir for the photo, but their 4 390-word statement surprised even sceptics with its lack of initiative.
Analysts have begun to question the feasibility of the forum, which added Russia, Vietnam and Peru at only its sixth summit. It is already appearing unwieldy.
Dr Athar Hussain, of the London School of Economics, said: "Most countries would have been happy if the meeting didn't take place. We have to remember it was an organisation founded in a time of prosperity."
Walden Bello, sociology professor at the University of the Philippines, said: "No other regional association has generated so much heat yet yielded so little." - © The Daily Telegraph.