APEC leaders looking to bridge distances

Global warming, trade and energy security are expected to top the agenda of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit underway in Australia. In the last hour the leaders of the twenty-one participating countries arrived at the Sydney Opera House to sta

Please follow the link to watch the opening of APEC 2007 live

Russia Today's political commentator Peter Lavelle stresses the principles of the APEC summit are openness and respect for each other’s view.

«70% of the world’s economic growth comes from this group of countries where there are almost 3 BLN people. And it works on a mechanism when you don’t commit any things, it is all about consensus. For another forum it doesn’t work – it works for APEC for some reason. Another thing is that any leader can bring any issue they want to the summit, it is not closed, and everyone respects each other’s view,» he outlines.  

The 21 member states of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum account for over 50% of the world’s GDP that makes it a very strong player within the international community.

As for Russia, it looks to enhancing its presence in the region and gaining as much as possible from this summit, among other thing getting a privilege to host the APEC 2012 forum in its Far-Eastern city of Vladivostok.

Ahead of the summit, the Russian President Putin has had consultations with the Australian Prime Minister and the U.S President. U.S. missile defence plans for Eastern Europe and Russia's continuing attempts to join the WTO were among the issues on the agenda.

Russia-U.S. summit

Protests in Sydney

Nuclear Safeguards Agreement

One of the crucial results of the meeting between Vladimir Putin and John Howard was the Nuclear Safeguards deal, which allows Australian mining companies to export uranium directly to Russia. This deal could also help a Russian plan to create a network of global uranium processing centres, which would allow any country to generate nuclear power without the need for the full nuclear cycle.

The deal was met with criticism and accusations from some that the uranium will not be used for peaceful purposes. 

“There’s no reason Russia would want to enrich the uranium we are going to buy from Australia. We are buying it for civil purposes only. In Soviet times we built 30 nuclear power stations and we are planning to build another 30. This is why we are buying uranium from Australia. As for supplying uranium to other countries, there’s no need for that. Russia has enough of its own resources,” said the Russian president. 

George Bush and Vladimir Putin   
             during the meeting in Sydney
George Bush and Vladimir Putin during the meeting in Sydney


This year Australia is hosting Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, Russia wishes to have the honour in 2012. John Howard supported the bid, particularly if the event takes place in St. Petersburg but Mr Putin had to disappoint him.

“If the summit takes place in Russia, we would like it to be held in an Asian port of the country – in Vladivostok, for example. This area is part of the Asian region and is rich in the resources our APEC partners need,” Mr Putin pointed out. 

When it comes to relations between Australia and Russia, it’s all about bridging the distance – geographic, but also political and economic. Australia is not on the list of Russia’s biggest trade partners and both sides are willing to build on the potential. So at a meeting with the business community Mr Putin had the opportunity to discuss the issue. 

Russia-U.S. summit

As for the meeting with George Bush, both leaders shared a joke and seemed relaxed. Unlike the relations between the countries that have been strained recently – due mostly to the missile defence system that Washington is eager to deploy in Europe.

Russia says the plans are a threat to its security and has instead offered the use of its own facilities – particularly the Gabala radar base in Azerbaijan.

This is the leaders' first meeting since Kennebunkport and although both presidents are finishing their terms in office, they admitted it might not be their last. 

Police on high alert in Sydney
Police on high alert in Sydney

At the end both presidents said they hoped to keep up the trend of warm relations between the countries. 

For Australia, Russia and the U.S. the APEC summit offers various advantages. For the host – an opportunity to promote its exports and prosperity, for the U.S. – to reinforce its influence in the region. And for Russia it’s a chance to reiterate its position in the organisation and in the region.

Protests in Sydney

Meanwhile, scuffles have broken out between police and the Asia-Pacific forum protestors. Around 1,000 demonstrators rushed to a hotel where the summit's delegates are staying. 

Reception of the American president on his second visit to Australia varies. While some protestors in the streets blame him for traffic jams, war in Iraq and dozens of other problems, others stage a display of support just across the street. 

As for Sydney police, the APEC summit has become their largest-ever security operation. More than 3,500 officers are on guard throughout the city – on foot, on boats and in the air.