August 27, 2012 / 6:43 PM / 6 years ago

APEC meeting to focus on euro zone headwinds: U.S.'s Brainard

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The euro zone economic crisis and role that emerging economies in Asia can play in boosting the global economy will be the focus of a regional meeting of Asia-Pacific finance officials later this week, a top U.S. Treasury official said on Monday.

“Many APEC economies retain substantial policy space to boost domestic demand and we’ll continue to encourage a policy response that achieves a soft landing,” U.S. Treasury’s Undersecretary Lael Brainard told reporters, previewing the meeting of finance chiefs from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

She said there would be “intense focus” on how countries can respond to the headwinds coming from the euro zone debt crisis.

“We look forward to continuing to engage with our partners from the euro zone ... they continue to work to address some of the challenges that they face,” Brainard said. “We think it is important that the institutions of the euro area work together ... to provide support for countries that are undertaking difficult reforms to make sure they retain access to financing.”

Brainard said China had made progress in rebalancing its economy toward more domestic consumption but it needs to take steps towards a more market-orientated exchange rate.

“We obviously are very supportive of the efforts in China to ensure a soft landing, recognizing that they do face headwinds particularly from Europe, given the large degree of export exposure there,” Brainard said.

“We think there’s a lot of capacity to do that and we’re going to continue to press in that direction,” she added.

Russia is hosting this year’s APEC summit, which also includes the United States, China, Japan, South Korea and 16 other economies that together account for more than half of world output.

“Strong economic leadership from this region is vital to strengthening the recovery here at home and ensuring strong sustainable and balanced growth around the world,” Brainard said.

President Barack Obama, who hosted last year’s APEC summit meeting in Honolulu, is skipping the September 8-9 leaders’ summit in Vladivostok, which comes just days after he will accept the U.S. Democratic Party’s nomination to run for a second term.

This week’s meeting of senior finance officials in Moscow is part of the final run-up for the summit, where the U.S. delegation will be led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk is also attending.

Last year, in a bid to spur trade and help the environment, APEC leaders agreed to a goal of cutting tariffs on a range of environmentally friendly goods to 5 percent or less by 2015.

Since then, negotiators from the 21 countries have been negotiating over which products would be covered by the tariff caps and hope to reach agreement by the Vladivostok meeting.

Brainard said she would press on that issue at the finance ministers’ meeting, and also discuss efforts among the United States and 10 other current APEC members to forge a free trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact.

“The United States and its trading partners are determined to complete a broad-based, high-standard TPP agreement and one that can serve as an important engine for economic expansion in the region,” Brainard said.

Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and Doug Palmer; Editing by Phil Berlowitz

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