APEC economic leaders meet in Hanoi to discuss
Updated: 2006-11-18 16:36

HANOI, November 18 -- Leaders of the 21 member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) began their annual meeting in Hanoi on Saturday to facilitate free trade and promote sustainable development in the region.

The closed-door meeting was opened Saturday afternoon at Hanoi' s National Convention Center after a welcome ceremony for the leaders by Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet at the entrance of the center.

The leaders were sitting in a round-table manner in the meeting room, according to a video tape footage shown to the press at the international media center. They are expected to deliver speeches and hold discussions during Saturday's two-hour-long retreat.

A dialogue is also scheduled later this afternoon between the leaders and the APEC Business Advisory Council, during which Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet will deliver a keynote speech.

On Saturday evening, the leaders and spouses will attend a gala dinner and cultural performance in the National Convention Center, according to a tentative schedule for the day. A trip to the Temple of Literature, a site of interest in Hanoi, was also arranged for the spouses in the morning.

During the two-day gathering, the leaders are expected to approve a Hanoi Action Plan for implementing the Busan Roadmap toward the Bogor Goals of free and open trade and investment in the region, and issue Hanoi Declaration on achieving stability, security and prosperity for the region.

The annual meeting of Pacific-Rim leaders is a forum of the highest level in the Asia-Pacific region, drawing the presence of such prominent figures as Chinese President Hu Jintao, U.S. President George W. Bush, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Founded in 1989, APEC is a major regional forum acting as the primary regional vehicle for promoting open trade and practical economic and technical cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.

It represents the most economically dynamic region in the world, with its 21 member economies accounting for more than one third of the world's population, approximately 60 percent of world GDP, about 47 percent of world trade.