Pacific Rim leaders took another step Sunday toward building a free-trade zone, buoyed by China's promise to slash tariffs and ease foreign access to its fast-growing markets.
Their enthusiasm apparently undimmed by President Bill Clinton's absence because of America's budget crisis, leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting offered "down payments" on the pledge made last year to ease trade policies over the next quarter-century.
The pledges ranged from deregulating industries and lowering tariffs to trimming the red tape that bedevils regional trade.
The 18 APEC nations are the source of 50 percent of world trade. They include the world's …