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Richard Attias

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APEC's Economic Game-Changers

Posted: 11/11/11 09:00 AM ET

As the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation gets ready for its CEO summit this weekend, all eyes will be on the leaders of those countries that are not just weathering the global downturn but booming. They are the economic champions, already changing the game while so many others falter: Vietnam, Indonesia, Chile and Peru.

Luckily the presidents of all four nations will attend the APEC summit -- Vietam's Truong Tan Sang, Indonesia's Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Ollanta Humala from Peru and Sebastián Piñera from Chile. There is much that we can learn from them and their thriving economies.

Vietnam's GDP grew about 5.8 percent in the first ten months of this year. Its population is 90 million and most of those citizens are under 35. Many now have disposable incomes, which in turn will fuel future growth.

Indonesia's economy is buoyant, GDP rising 6.5 percent in the third quarter of this year. Consumption is strong and foreign direct investment went up 16 percent. But the news isn't all good. The country has a weak infrastructure, according to the Financial Times; members of the burgeoning middle class are buying cars and creating traffic problems in the capital, Jakarta.

Over in Latin America, Chile and Peru have signed free-trade deals with China. This year Peruvian GDP expanded at 7.5 percent -- higher than economists had forecast. Consumer demand along with a booming fishing trade, and gold and copper-mining, are fueling this economy.

It's a similar story in Chile, where growth is 5.7 percent, a pace that BusinessWeek dubs "faster than ever." (These phrases must make the mouths of western economists water.) The fact that Chile is the world's leading producer of copper -- highly desirable to China -- probably helps.

Other things are changing. It used to be, as the Financial Times again points out, that when the US economy caught a cold, Latin America got pneumonia. Now these Latin American nations are shifting direction, building links with China as much as the US.

The story these leaders have to tell us will be a welcome antidote to the gloom and doom of Europe's financial woes and the stagnation of the US. We must hope that some fruitful lessons may be gleaned from their experiences.