SINGAPORE, Nov. 14 (Xinhua) -- Leaders and representatives of the 21 APEC economies Saturday concluded a retreat session of the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting (AELM) held at the Istana, the office of the Singapore President.
Focusing on trade issues, the leaders resolved to inject a strong political push to conclude the Doha Round of WTO negotiations by the end of 2010. There was a sense of urgency that as negotiations moved into the end-game, strong political will was critical to break the impasse.
In a robust defense of free trade, APEC Leaders also reiterated their commitment to reject all forms of protectionism.
There was also a good discussion on APEC's long-term vision of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP). There was consensus among the leaders that APEC economies should step up their efforts to realize this vision, by laying the necessary building blocks and exploring possible pathways.
In this regard, several leaders highlighted the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP) as a possible pathway. They welcomed U.S. President Barack Obama's announcement Saturday that the U.S. will engage in the TPP and work towards a broad-based and high-quality agreement.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong acknowledged, however, that political conditions need to be right before negotiations for a region-wide FTAAP could be launched.
The theme of free trade resonated strongly among APEC leaders. They agreed that apart from traditional trade and investment liberalization issues, the APEC also needed to focus on new areas like regulatory reform and connectivity and take a more practical approach to connect the markets.
Some leaders suggested enhancing regional connectivity by improving cross-border transport linkages of all forms, including land, air and sea connectivity. Others highlighted the need to focus more on structural reforms to raise productivity and enhance the region's economic competitiveness.
They noted that the recent initiative to cut the costs of doing business in the APEC region by 25 percent by 2015 was a timely and important one.
Leaders will continue their retreat session Sunday, after which a declaration is expected to be issued. The APEC 2009 theme is "Sustaining Growth, Connecting the Region."