Bush Urges Pacific Rim to Expand Free Trade

By Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 7, 2007

SYDNEY, Sept. 7 -- President Bush on Friday called on Pacific Rim leaders to support efforts to expand free trade, saying that open markets are a crucial element in strengthening the "forces of freedom and prosperity."

Speaking to business leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum at the famed Sydney Opera House, Bush said free trade is the only route to long-term freedom and growth, despite the short-term pain it often causes in industrialized nations in terms of lost jobs and stagnant wages.

"The surest road to stagnation and instability is the path of isolation and protectionism," Bush said. "And the only road to enduring prosperity and stability is through open markets and open trade."

Bush wants leaders at the summit to push for progress in the so-called Doha round of the World Trade Organization talks, which have been stalled largely over differences between the United States and the European Union over tariffs and farm subsidies.

Bush also urged Pacific Rim leaders to address energy security and climate change in an "integrated" fashion, while continuing to battle terrorism.

Bush's address, his major speech at the 21-nation APEC conference, came one day after his meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao. In the 90-minute session, Hu assured Bush that his government is very concerned about the safety of products made in China, noting that they are sold not only overseas but also to consumers at home, White House aides said.

The session between the two leaders touched on a wide variety of other issues, including the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Hu reiterated an invitation to Bush and his family to attend the Games, Bush said. "I was anxious to accept," he recounted afterward.

Sensitive to concerns about China's human rights record, a Bush aide added a caveat to Bush's acceptance. The president would be attending "for the sports" and not to make any political statement, said James F. Jeffrey, a deputy national security adviser.

Bush and Hu described their meeting as cordial and open. "He's an easy man to talk to," Bush said. "I'm very comfortable in my discussions with President Hu."

Bush said that in the meeting, "I had a chance to share once again with the president my belief in religious freedom and religious liberty." That amounted to a criticism of China's control of religious expression. Aides said later that Bush told Hu that he would attend a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony for the Dalai Lama in Washington in October.

Contamination in Chinese-made food and products sold in the United States has become a major point of friction between the two countries in recent months, leading the Chinese government to launch a public relations offensive to shore up its reputation as a world trader.

Bush said Hu had been "quite articulate about product safety, and I appreciated his comments." Bush did not elaborate.

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