Summit was lot of hot air

They came, they saw and they shook hands a lot.

But as Asia-Pacific leaders wrapped up another summit yesterday, the question was whether their annual get-together produced much.

Most participants and observers say the summit produced very little.

The Sydney summit's flagship announcement was an agreement to work towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which Australian Prime Minister John Howard touted as a "milestone" in efforts to curb global warming.

Leaders of the 21 economies, which together represent nearly half of world trade and include China and the US, urged swift action to spur talks on breaking down barriers to global commerce.

They also discussed issues from the safety of food products, intellectual piracy and corruption to the fight against bird flu and terrorism as well as regional security.

Roberto Romulo, a former Philippines foreign minister who now sits on a business advisory group to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum, said it was normal for a summit to achieve less than what it had aimed for. "Look at it as 21 people sleeping on the same bed," he told reporters. "Each one of them is dreaming his or her own dream."

Analyst Charles Morrison said he had been "pleasantly surprised" by this year's event. "I think there's not much in the way of a big concrete output, but the spirit was good," said the director of the Hawaii- based East-West Centre.

He said the advantage of a summit was not the nitty-gritty, but the chance to chew over concerns privately with other Apec leaders.

"There's a little bit of competition between the leaders of the big powers; competition for a sense that you are a vigorous world leader," he said.

Much of the build-up to the weekend summit was taken up with the visits of Chinese President Hu Jintao, who had been in Australia since Monday, US President Bush- who arrived on Tuesday - and Russia's Vladimir Putin.

Jintao oversaw a deal to import liquefied natural gas from Australia, and Putin an accord with Howard allowing Moscow to buy uranium produced there. Bush hailed the Australian leader for his unwavering support in Iraq.

They helped make it a successful summit for Howard, said Damien Kingsbury, a political analyst at Deakin University in Melbourne.

Kingsbury thought the summit had been "relatively more positive" than previous years because of Australia's commitment and for placing climate change on top of the agenda. - Sapa-AFP