Source: AP/Yahoo News
Asia-Pacific leaders focused their attention on rising concern over food security on Sunday, as they prepared to wrap up their annual summit with an agreement to slash tariffs on trade in environmental goods and a call to keep markets open even in hard times.
Food security “is one of the most acute problems of our time,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in convening Sunday’s second and final “informal retreat” of the Asia-Pacific Economic Forum in this far eastern Russian seaport.
“Without ensuring food security, we cannot achieve our goal of enhancing the quality of life for our people,” he said before the closed door session got under way.
The explicit focus on food security by the leaders of the 21-member APEC reflects abiding concern over the potential for food prices to surge to politically volatile levels.
Current prices are high, though they remained flat in August and are below the levels that triggered rioting and unrest in parts of the developing world in 2007-2008. Another food crisis, in 2010-2011, also caused hardships for poorer consumers, especially in countries heavily dependent on food imports.
Russia’s decision to ban grain exports two years ago due to shortfalls caused by drought and fires was seen as contributing to a surge in global food prices, though Putin has said there will be no export curbs this year.
Revitalizing growth through more open trade is an urgent priority for the APEC forum, whose aim is to dismantle barriers and bottlenecks that interfere with business, while nurturing closer economic ties.
In acting as host for Russia’s first APEC summit, Putin has underscored his government’s commitment to opening markets further, especially as a new member of the rules-setting World Trade Organization.
Asia remains the brightest spot in the global economy but is facing challenges, and trade is the solution, Putin told fellow leaders as they began their annual “informal retreat.”
“The recovery of the global economy is faltering. We can only overcome negative trends by enhancing the volume of trade … enhancing the flow of capital. It is important to follow the fundamental principles of open markets and free trade,” Putin said.
“The priority goal is to fight protectionism in all its forms,” Putin said. “It is important to build bridges not walls.”
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