SINGAPORE, Nov. 15 (Xinhua) -- Leaders of the 21-member Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) on Sunday issued a declaration pledging to undergo economic structural reforms, resist trade protectionism in order to develop a new growth model to sustain the weak global recovery.
The declaration also marks the conclusion of the 8-day APEC Leaders Week meetings that drew thousands of the world's top politicians, economists, businessmen at a time when the world economy, led by Asia, is recovering from the worst recession since the 1930s.
"Our robust policy responses have helped to set the stage for recovery. But economic recovery is not yet on a solid footing," said the declaration, made public by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, U.S. President Barack Obama, Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, Chinese President Hu Jintao and 18 other regional leaders.
"Looking beyond supporting the recovery, we recognize the necessity to develop a new growth paradigm for the changed post-crisis landscape. We cannot go back to 'growth as usual'," the declaration said.
Leaders vowed to put in place next year a comprehensive long-term growth strategy while maintaining the emergency stimulus policies -- estimated at 1 trillion U.S. dollars -- until a durable recovery has clearly taken hold.
The APEC zone, stretching from China to Chile, has 2.7 billion population and accounts for 54 percent of the world's economic output and 44 percent of the global trade.
"What we say here will attract worldwide attention, and what we agree upon here will have a major impact on the development of the world and this region in particular," Hu Jintao said on Sunday's session of the summit.
Since its founding 20 years ago, the APEC has been pushing for a free and open trade area across the region. Tariffs have significantly reduced over the years but non-tariff barriers largely remain, observers said.
Today, just as the world's economic outlook improves, some countries are being accused of injecting protectionism measures into their stimulus packages to protect local jobs from global competition. Trade disputes among APEC members are also on the rise.
"Protectionism is killing North American companies," Mexican President Felipe Calderon said in Saturday's APEC CEO Summit, urging Washington to sooner implement a trade pact among the United States, Canada and Mexico.
"President Obama is facing severe political constraints that run counter to free trade," said Calderon, whose Southeast Asian counterparts also voiced their concern over Washington's stand on trade liberalization.
But Obama, who is on his maiden presidential visit to Asia, did make a good gesture by announcing the U.S.'s readiness to participate in a small but potentially vibrant free trade pact across the Pacific -- the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he expected the TPP to develop into a sweeping free trade agreement which encompasses the world Asia-Pacific region.
With such a broad vision in mind, APEC leaders said in the declaration that they would "firmly reject all forms of protectionism... and refrain from raising new barriers to investment or to trade in goods and services."
Leaders also pushed to break the impasse of a long-running global trade talk and pledged efforts to conclude it by next year.
They said that they are ready to "exercise pragmatism and all possible flexibility and utilize all possible avenues" to accelerate the negotiations of the eight-year-old Doha Development Round, stalled over disputes on agricultural trade between developed and developing countries.
APEC leaders Sunday also vowed to push for coordinated efforts to tackle the climate change as this weekend is considered the last meet of regional leaders before they attend the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark in early December.
But they dropped a specific target to cut greenhouse gas emission by 50 percent by 2050 in the joint declaration due to the controversy of the issue.
A Chinese official familiar with the discussion told a press briefing Saturday that the emission cut proposal was scrapped for fear that the binding provision on a controversial issue might disrupt the climate change negotiations in Copenhagen.
State and government leaders from about 190 countries are expected to attend the U.N. Copenhagen conference on Dec. 7-18. The meeting was initially intended to lay the ground for renewing greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets set by the Kyoto Protocol before they expire in 2012. But chances now look slim.
The APEC accounts for approximately 60 percent of the world energy consumption. Eighteen APEC leaders, including Chinese President Hu Jintao, Sunday held an informal breakfast discussion on climate change. Hu said the Copenhagen conference was an important meeting of the international community to cooperate on climate change and pushing for a positive result of the conference conforms to the common interests of all parties.