US urges Asia to help save global economy

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The United States urged Asia to do more to stimulate global growth to offset the eurozone crisis, ahead of a summit in Hawaii where Washington is seeking to shape the rules for the emerging Pacific region.

After hosting a meeting of Asia-Pacific finance ministers, US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said talks had been dominated by how to make growth more balanced and sustainable in the future, given the crisis in Europe.

Geithner had a stark message for leaders such as Chinese President Hu Jintao and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda gathering in tropical Honolulu for this year's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

"Asian economies will need to do more to stimulate domestic demand growth -- both so they are less vulnerable to slowdowns, such as the situation in Europe, and so they can continue to contribute to global growth," he said.

APEC's 21 member economies account for about 40 percent of the world's population, more than 50 percent of its gross domestic product and 44 percent of global trade.

"While APEC economies are the most vulnerable to a global slowdown, they can also play the greatest role in contributing to the global recovery and establishing the foundations of strong, sustainable, and balanced future growth," Geithner said.

Europe warned Thursday that the debt crisis was dragging the region towards a new recession as Greece chose a new prime minister to try to pull it back from the brink of financial disaster and Italy too lurched into crisis.

In Honolulu, where US President Barack Obama hopes this weekend to unveil the broad outlines of a landmark trade pact, there were signs of tensions between the United States and the Asia-Pacific's other dominant power, China.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, previewing the US message for the summit of the 21-member APEC forum, said the region stands at a "pivot point" as it becomes "the world's strategic and economic center of gravity."

Saying that the post-World War II institutions between the United States and Europe had paid "remarkable dividends," Clinton said the time had come for "a more dynamic and durable trans-Pacific system."

The top US diplomat insisted that the United States welcomed a "thriving China," saying it was not in either country's interest for Washington to try to contain the rising Asian power.

But Clinton, who later held talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, voiced concern about Beijing's record both on human rights and the economy.

The United States hopes to point to concrete results from its chairmanship of APEC, and finance ministers met Thursday to find ways to shield the region from chaos in the eurozone.

"We are all directly affected by the crisis in Europe, but the economies gathered here are in a better position than most to take steps to strengthen growth in the face of these pressures from Europe," Geithner said.

"In this context, the principal focus of our discussions was how to help strengthen growth around the world and make it more balanced and sustainable in the future."

Obama is expected to announce a tentative free trade deal called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with eight other nations -- Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Japan's Noda is seriously considering bringing the world's third largest economy into the talks, a step that would move the once-obscure pact closer to becoming an Asia-wide trade deal.

Obama, who arrives late Friday in his native state, hopes that such trade deals will ramp up US exports and create badly needed jobs, his top priority as he seeks re-election next year.

Critics point out that the TPP pact includes communist Vietnam and say that the agreement's details are vague. The pact has sparked opposition among farmers in Japan and the United States who both fear growing competition.

China is not part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and on Monday questioned US goals for the summit as a whole, including a goal of reducing tariffs on green goods within the APEC bloc.

"It seems that the current goals put out by the US side are too ambitious and beyond the reach of developing economies," assistant foreign minister Wu Hailong said.

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