Courtesy Reuters

During his July trip to Asia, President Clinton went further than any of his predecessors in pledging America's help to create "a new Pacific community." He underscored this by proposing an informal summit conference with leaders of the other 14 members of the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation organization (APEC); hence the upgrading of APEC's minister-level meeting in late November in Seattle. While promising support for regional security and democratization, Clinton made clear that the summit's topics would be largely economic. "Our nation," he said, "is ready to be a full partner in Asian growth."

The statement may prove to be a historic one. Few have any doubts left about the continuing expansion of the Asia-Pacific economies and their importance to the United States. More than 40 percent of American trade is with the Pacific region, and this figure shows every sign of increasing. By the year 2000 trade and investment flows across the Pacific will be double the transatlantic volume. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s the American consumer was the engine of growth that fueled various East Asian "miracles." In the future, the big businesses and new middle-class consumers of the region offer the best possible chance for an increase in U.S. exports-both

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