Ministers of the 21 economies in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum concluded a two-day meeting in Yokohama with a joint statement stressing the increasing importance of the region as a growth center in the global economy as well as agreeing on the need to reinforce regional economic integration, reports the Japan Times.
"I believe we were able to build a good foundation for the future of APEC," the newspaper quotes Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara as saying during a news conference after the meeting. "Through our discussions, I became convinced that APEC has and will continue to play an important role globally and that it will pave the way for the future of the Asia-Pacific region as well as the world."
The ministers issued a separate statement expressing their commitment to concluding the World Trade Organization's Doha Round and to resist protectionism.
"Open markets are vital for growth and job creation, enabling strong and sustainable growth in the region," the statement says. "While the world economy is on its way to recovery, however, there still remains a possibility of increasing protectionist pressures in the future."
The statement calls for an extension of a ban on new trade barriers among APEC members until 2013.
Concern over protectionism is running high among APEC economies, as China, which currently controls 97% of the global supply of rare earth materials, allegedly halted their export to Japan amid the diplomatic tension over the disputed Senkaku Islands, says the Times.
On the stalled WTO talks, the ministers called 2011 a "critically important window of opportunity" and expressed their intention to aim to conclude the talks by the end of next year.