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Crucial talks at APEC, ASEAN Summits

These have been very busy days for many of the world’s leaders.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting of leaders of countries in Asia and around the Pacific Ocean was held in Da Nang, Vietnam, on November 8-10, followed by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Summits in Manila on November 12-14.

The leaders of the ten ASEAN nations met among themselves at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) yesterday morning, followed in the afternoon by the ASEAN-United States Summit, the ASEAN-China Summit, the ASEAN-Republic of Korea Summit, the ASEAN-Japan Summit, and the ASEAN-United Nations Summit.

These meetings of presidents and prime ministers provided opportunities for these leaders to take up various pressing concerns. US President Donald Trump and China President Xi Jinping, for example, had much to discuss between just the two of them, including their trade imbalance and the North Korea problem.

Economic issues dominated the group and bilateral meetings, considering the fact that ASEAN, in the words of Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is today the world’s center of growth. Its population has grown in the last 50 years from 180 million to 640 million, while its combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) mushroomed over a hundred times, from $22.5 billion to $2.6 trillion, on a nominal basis.

With the Philippines as chairman of the ASEAN on its 50th anniversary this year, President Duterte has found himself at the center of the succession of discussions. At the inaugural dialogue between ASEAN and APEC in Vietnam, he said he saw the two organizations collaborating more closely together, with ASEAN serving as “regional pathfinder” for APEC’s “open regionalism” – opening the door wider to the eventual achievement of liberalized trade in Asia and the Pacific.

Out of the series of top-level meetings in the two conferences, we can expect action plans and programs of various kinds in the coming months. These have been truly crucial events with far-ranging effects in world affairs and we have been at their very center.

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