NUSA DUA, Indonesia -- Secretary of State John Kerry replaced President Barack Obama at the opening of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting Monday, leaving Chinese President Xi Jinping as the dominant leader at a gathering devoted to achieving greater economic integration.
Mr. Xi, the keynote speaker, delivered a long, tightly scripted speech that made no reference to Mr. Obama and concentrated on the theme of the Chinese economic overhaul at home, and the need for China to have the Asia-Pacific region as a partner abroad.
The absence of Mr. Obama, who canceled to try to resolve the government shutdown in Washington, was repeatedly noted at the conference, held in this enclave of international resorts on the Indonesian island of Bali. But Mr. Kerry, for his part, made light of his role as the stand-in.
"In 2004, obviously, I worked very very hard to replace a president," Mr. Kerry told his audience, referring to his unsuccessful campaign against President George W. Bush. "This is not what I had in mind."
According to data from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, known as APEC, its members -- including the United States and China, Russia, Mexico, Canada and 16 other countries -- account for about 40 percent of the world's population, 55 percent of global gross domestic product and about 44 percent of world trade. Trade within APEC has grown nearly sevenfold since 1989, topping $11 trillion in 2011.
But in his opening remarks to the APEC leaders, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the grouping was more important than ever, because its member economies continued to "feel the pain" of the global economic crisis.
A report released Monday by the World Bank said countries with developing economies in East Asia and the Pacific, some of which are members of the group, were expanding at a slower pace as China shifted from export-driven growth and focused on domestic demand. Growth in larger middle-income countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, is also softening because of lower investment and global commodity prices, as well as lower-than-expected export growth, the report said.
Mr. Obama had planned to use personal persuasion to push forward negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade bloc led by the United States that excludes China. The administration has set year's end as the goal to finish the complex negotiations that cover all economic sectors, from intellectual property to agriculture to autos, and aim to bring regional economic integration through trade and investment liberalization.
The job of lobbying for the deadline was left to U.S. trade representative Michael Froman, who said in an interview that it was an "ambitious but doable" goal. The administration was hoping that South Korean President Park Geun-hye would announce at the meeting that Seoul was ready to join the negotiations. But South Korean officials said Ms. Park would not make that declaration in Bali.
First Published October 7, 2013 8:00 PM