Sunday, July 29, 2007

Zoellick Premieres This APEC

World Bank President Robert Zoellick is expected to be the star turn at a meeting in Australia this week of finance ministers from 21 Asia-Pacific countries, officials said Sunday.

Zoellick is in his first month as head of the World Bank and this is his first overseas trip since replacing fellow American Paul Wolfowitz.

The meeting starts Monday at a seaside hotel at Coolum on Queensland's Sunshine Coast.

Australia is this year's host of the series of meetings of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) grouping of regional economies that ends with the leader's meeting in Sydney in September.

Zoellick is well-known in the region, having served as a US deputy secretary of state and also as President George W Bush's top trade negotiator.

'Ten years after the East Asian financial crisis the region has become an important source of growth and dynamism,' Zoellick told reporters in Washington before setting off on a trip that will also take him to Cambodia, Vietnam and Japan.

'I look forward to exchanging views with APEC partners on ... sustaining growth and overcoming poverty while increasing energy efficiency and environmental protection in a region where demand is growing rapidly.'

The new World Bank president has said he would be pushing on with Wolfowitz's focus on tackling corruption and solving governance issues.

'I want to try to stress the overall rule of law, good governance, the openness of a society and how it can contribute to development and opportunity,' he said at the press briefing.

In Cambodia and Vietnam, big recipients of World Bank loans, Zoellick will visit projects and meet government officials, business leaders and civic groups. Zoellick said Cambodia was 'emerging as a vibrant economy, having posted double-digit growth for the past three years.'

Zoellick praised Vietnam, last year's APEC host, saying it was a 'great development story from which many other developing countries can learn.'

Japan is the second-largest World Bank donor after the US, and a key member of APEC along with the US, China and Russia.

'I'm interested in trying to get the sense of priorities that Japan sees in the development area,' Zoellick said.

In the weeks before he took over at the World Bank, Zoellick visited Africa, Europe and Latin America.

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