Mr. Obama, who canceled his appearance at the meeting to try to resolve the government shutdown in Washington, had planned to use his personal persuasion to push forward negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade bloc that is led by the United States and that excludes China.
A statement by foreign and trade ministers painted a fairly gloomy economic forecast for the 21 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group as the leaders met at an international conference center on the Indonesian island of Bali.
“Global growth is too weak, risks remain tilted to the downside, and the economic outlook suggests growth is likely to be slower and less balanced than desired,” the ministers said.
To overcome the slow growth, it is imperative for the group to agree on a “comprehensive series of structural reforms so as to increase productivity, labor force participation and high-quality job creation,” the statement said.
According to data from the group, its members account for about 40 percent of the world’s population, 55 percent of global gross domestic product and about 44 percent of world trade. Trade within the group has grown nearly sevenfold since it was founded in 1989, topping $11 trillion in 2011.
The American trade representative, Michael Froman, said the Obama administration remained committed to trying to complete the negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership by the end of the year. “Our message is ‘Let’s get this done as soon as possible,’” Mr. Froman said in an interview. The Dec. 31 goal is “ambitious, but it’s doable,” he said.
The partnership, a major element of Mr. Obama’s pivot toward Asia, is intended to achieve open market access among the 12 participants, with the United States, Japan, Mexico and Canada as the major economies.
The administration was hoping that the leader of South Korea, Park Geun-hye, would announce at the meeting that South Korea was ready to join the negotiations. But South Korean officials said Ms. Park would not make that declaration in Bali.
The absence of Mr. Obama took some gravitas out of the conference, and there were deep questions about how the president could get a trade pact through Congress given the hostility of conservative Republicans in the House toward his domestic programs.
The prime minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, who maintains friendly relations with China, was the most direct in describing the damage to the summit meeting by Mr. Obama’s absence. “No other country can replace” the American engagement in Asia, he said. “Not China, not Japan, not any other power. That is something which we continue and encourage at every opportunity.”
President Bill Clinton canceled a trip to the group’s summit meeting in Japan in 1995, and was able to recover American prestige in the region, officials said. But the far greater competition for influence between the United States and China and the dynamic economies of Asia make the region far more important to Washington now.
On the sidelines of the summit meeting, Mr. Kerry met with the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, and the two diplomats expressed satisfaction with the progress of the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria by international disarmament inspectors. The first weapons, including missile warheads, were destroyed Sunday, Mr. Kerry said.
“It is a good beginning, and we should welcome a good beginning,” he said. The secretary also praised the cooperation of Russia and the compliance of Syria in the process.
The two diplomats said they would push for a November start for a Geneva conference to reach a political settlement in Syria under the auspices of the United Nations.