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Small business is key to growth: executives

HONOLULU, Hawaii -- Asia-Pacific business leaders laid out a plan Thursday to restore global economic growth focused specifically on boosting finance to small- and medium-sized enterprises.

The APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) said smaller companies make up 90 percent of all businesses in the Asia-Pacific region and employ nearly 60 percent of the work force, but only account for around 30 percent of exports.

“The ABAC plan calls for economies to increase access to finance for small-, medium- and micro-size enterprises, the engines of innovation and economic growth in the region,” business leaders said in a written statement.

ABAC is to present its plan, which also calls for modernizing trade agreements and more “green” growth measures, to leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum at a dialogue in Hawaii on Sunday.

U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda are among the leaders gathering for the annual summit aimed at forging stronger economic bonds between Pacific Rim nations.

ABAC, which held a three-day meeting that wrapped up Thursday, is comprised of the top executives from almost 70 leading companies from APEC member economies, including Procter & Gamble, Caterpillar and JP Morgan Chase.

APEC's 21 members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.

The United States is involved in negotiations with eight other economies for an agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which could lead to the creation of free trade zone spanning both sides of the Pacific Ocean.

Critics of free trade agreements, including some labor unions, complain that such deals have benefited large corporations at the expense of workers and hastened the decline of the manufacturing sector.

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