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Putin: world economy shifting east

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the world's economic epicenter is shifting east at a regional summit in Vladivostok. Putin was speaking to other leaders from the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.

"The global economic landscape is changing even as we speak, it is a fact of life," Putin told delegates in the opening speech of the APEC summit in the Pacific port city of Vladivostok on Friday. "The world is moving into a new economic and technological era … and it is up to us gathered here to meet these challenges intelligently and pragmatically."

Putin said Russian energy supplies and increased support for free trade deals would help the 21-country bloc achieve this. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was also present in Vladivostok and would hold "brief" talks with Putin on the sidelines of the conference, a presidential spokesman said.

More than 750 delegates, politicians and business leaders alike, gathered on a brand new luxury complex on an island just off the Pacific port city of Vladivostok. A bespoke one-kilometer bridge was built to the island in preparation for the summit.

"All of this speaks not just of the attention that the government of Russia is paying to the APEC summit, but of the great potential for development for our two countries," Chinese President Hu Jintao said at the new resort complex.

Hong Kong and Chile, both APEC members, signed a bilateral free trade agreement ahead of the weekend summit on Friday.

Internal frictions

Japan said that it was not planning official summit talks with China or South Korea, after weeks of increased tension over small, disputed islands in the Pacific Ocean.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda also said, however, that his government had not ruled out possible informal talks with the two neighbors.

"At this point there is no formal summit with South Korea's President Lee Myung-Bak or China's President Hu Jintao," Noda told reporters. "But if there is an opportunity, for example a conversation in passing, I would like to tell them Japan's position."

Noda will be holding similar talks with Putin over disputed territory to the north of Japan.

The APEC summit plans to focus on access to water and food as well as regional economic integration.

Putin used his keynote speech to promote his plan to unite Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus into a post-Soviet economic bloc with better trade ties. He said this entity could become an ideal bridge to the east for Europe and the US.

"The future Eurasian Economic Union can become a linking factor between Europe and the Asian Pacific region," Putin said. "Today it's vital to build bridges between various regions of the world."

The APEC region, which also includes western hemisphere countries like Chile, Canada and Peru, accounts for over 40 percent of the world's population and over half the global economic output.

msh/slk (AFP, dpa, Reuters)