Hiroshima: Japan formally took up its chairmanship of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum for 2010 on Monday as senior officials from the 21 member economies gathered in Hiroshima to discuss freer trade and investment in the region.
The two-day talks come ahead of a series of APEC ministerial meetings during the year and centre on preparatory dialogues to lay the groundwork for APEC leaders to issue an annual joint statement at their summit in November in Yokohama.
Their priority issues include making efforts to create a region-wide free trade zone and develop a strategy for the economic growth of APEC as a whole, while the forum, established in 1989, will assess the extent to which its developed members have achieved its Bogor Goals of trade and investment liberalization, set 16 years ago.
As for the potential free trade zone, the senior officials are set to discuss how to explore possible pathways to a Free Trade Area in the Asia Pacific, building on existing analytical studies.
It is uncertain, however, how fast they can build a consensus for the FTAAP as some officials say APEC is too vast an economic bloc to agree on a single opinion, and that some members, especially China, remain cautious toward the United States establishing a strong foothold in Asia.
APEC, which accounts for half the world`s global economic output and 44 percent of its trade value, also involves Russia, Australia and Singapore.