Bush bows out, China assertive at APEC summit

US President George W. Bush began Friday his last scheduled foreign trip, meeting the leader of increasingly important China ahead of a summit aimed at containing a spiraling financial crisis.

Peruvian President Alan Garcia delivers a speech during the opening of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit in Lima. Leaders of the 21-member APEC group are to seek ways of turning back the world economic crisis as they gather in Lima amid unrelenting bad news from the Asia-Pacific region.(AFP/Presidencia)

Bush and 20 other leaders from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum were arriving in Peru's capital Lima for two days of talks under a backdrop of unending gloom in the world economy as more companies slash jobs.

"APEC is an important meeting this time, particularly given the financial situation in the world," Bush told Peruvian television before arriving.

"I've worked hard on a lot of fronts," Bush said as he prepares to hand over the White House to Barack Obama. "I have given it my all."

Some 1,000 leftist protesters took to the streets of Lima for Bush's international swan song, accusing him of triggering the global financial crisis through the Iraq war and his advocacy of free trade.

Bush headed straight to talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao, who has aggressively sought opportunities from his trip, including holding a rare meeting Friday with a senior official of Taiwan.

"It is very significant for old friends to meet far away from Asia," Taiwan's former premier Lien Chan told reporters after meeting with Hu.

The White House said that Bush would press China to arrange a new round of talks on ending North Korea's nuclear program, a key priority for the unpopular president as he prepares to hand over the reins to Obama.

Bush could have a much more tense meeting on Saturday with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who has warned the United States not to station a missile defense shield near its borders.

Nearly 40,000 police patrolled Peru's capital Lima for the two-day summit starting Saturday, which will take place in a tightly guarded army compound that had been used to torture prisoners in the 1980s.

Foreign and trade ministers of APEC -- which accounts for half of world trade -- set the stage for the summit by launching a joint appeal Wednesday against protectionism.

New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key, who headed here just one day after taking office, called for the APEC summit to be flexible in crafting solutions.

"Not since the Great Depression has the world experienced such a serious financial crisis as we have seen in recent months," Key, who swept to power on the back of economic anxieties, told business leaders.

"The implications for the real economy are likely to be profound and widespread," he said.

Despite Obama's soaring popularity around much of the world, some Asian exporter nations worry he will take a tougher trade stance faced with the financial crisis.

Japan's trade minister, Toshihiro Nikai, voiced hope that the Obama administration would carry on the trade policies of the Bush years.

"To achieve that goal, it is important for us to coordinate well," Nikai told reporters.

The APEC ministers also urged a resolution by the end of the year of a key roadblock holding up the so-called Doha Round of the World Trade Organization liberalization talks.

Amid the stalemate in global trade talks, nations have increasingly been seeking deals among themselves.

Australia and Peru on Thursday joined the United States in a budding free trade group that would slash tariffs across the Pacific rim, bringing the nations in the group to seven.

China's Hu and Russia's Medvedev have seized APEC as a chance to seek new trade deals and alliances across resource-rich Latin America, once considered the United States' backyard.

Source: AFP

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