At APEC Summit, Blending Economic Strategy and Ensemble

A week after Europe’s economic woes dominated the G20 summit in France, a different collection of world leaders meet in Hawaii, where they hope to strengthen ties among Asia and the Pacific region’s fast-growing markets, from China to Chile.

Twenty-one economies are participating in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit this weekend to discuss trade and investment in the Asia and Pacific region. (View a list of member countries and the years they joined.)

They’ll be hosted by President Obama, who will try to link growth of the American economy with fast-growing Asian markets, especially in light of struggling European markets and Latin American economies — which are growing, but not as fast as Asia, said Ernest Bower, senior adviser and director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Southeast Asia Program.

At the summit, “there will be a competition for who will define the economic architecture for the next two decades,” said Bower, whether it’s the U.S.-backed Trans-Pacific Partnership or the Chinese alternative, known as ASEAN Plus Three.

But President Obama also has national security interests in mind, Bower said. The South China Sea, through which two-thirds of the world’s shipping traverse, is the focus of competing territorial claims by China, Vietnam and the Philippines, and disputes could lead to broader conflicts.

On the lighter side, one of the traditions of the APEC summit is for world leaders to take a “class photo” — in some instances wearing matching garb characteristic of the host country. The big question is whether President Obama — who spent much of his boyhood in Hawaii, — will forego the goofy costumes, as some have predicted. See class photos over the years in this slide show.

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