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Asia-Pacific nations pledge growth, fret over economy

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia -- Asia-Pacific nations and partners, including China, the United States and Japan, promised measures to boost growth on Sunday and rejected limits on food exports to try to revive the flagging global economy.

Countries on the Pacific Rim ended a two-day summit on an island off the Russian port city of Vladivostok by expressing concern about the state of the world economy, global food security and growing signs of protectionism.

The 21 members of the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group agreed to slash import duties on “green technology,” take steps to bolster growth and liberalize trade to counter problems heightened by Europe's debt crisis.

“The financial markets remain fragile, while high public deficits and debts in some advanced economies are creating strong headwinds to economic recovery globally. The events in Europe are adversely affecting growth in the region,” they said.

“In such circumstances, we are resolved to work collectively to support growth and foster financial stability, and restore confidence.”

APEC, which also groups Malaysia, Indonesia, Canada and South Korea, makes decisions by consensus and its moves are not binding. But its influence is growing as Europe's declines.

It accounts for 40 percent of the world's population, 54 percent of its economic output and 44 percent of its trade. In the United States, China and Japan, it has the world's three largest economies.

Despite concern about Europe's debt problems, APEC welcomed European leaders' attempts to resolve the crisis.

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, who arrived for the last day of the summit, also signaled support for a European Central Bank plan to staunch the crisis with unlimited bond purchases.

She expressed an interest in the IMF playing a role in the design and monitoring of the ECB plan, under which the central bank would stand ready to buy sovereign debt with maturities of up to three years in return for a bailout deal.

“There's a general sense that the world economy is a little fragile ... but there's confidence that we can get through this,” New Zealand Prime Minister John Key told reporters.

The Pacific-Rim countries agreed this must not be done through protectionism. Despite a drought that has hit crops in the United States and Russia, which are global wheat suppliers, they ruled out limiting food exports and underlined the importance of open markets to ensure reliable food supplies.

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