FOR a meeting of historic importance, it was pretty low on impact. The venue, Tillicum Village - the name means ''friendly people'' in a native American dialect - is more usually frequented by boy scouts. The temperature hovered somewhere above zero and leaders took 15 minutes to disembark as deckhands made farcical bidsto line up their boat. The host turned up in a plaid shirt, hands thrust deep into the pockets of a sleeveless leather jacket. The Trooping of the Tyee (chief) - in this case the 12 heads of state and two cheque-book chiefs - looked about as cheerful as grown men packed off to camp when they would rather stay at home watching TV with a few cans of beer. While the prominently American camera crews latched on to US President Bill Clinton, female eyes wandered to Japan's recently elected Morihiro Hosokawa playing the dandy with a huge cashmere scarf around his neck. The mood, as the 14 lined up below totem poles and wood carvings, certainly looked more strained than cordial. Refusing to let his bluff geniality slip, Mr Clinton stonewalled a question on the absence of Governor Chris Patten and Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui. ''We're having a great meeting,'' he threw back breezily, possibly forgetting the meeting had not started. After lunch there was more of that dialogue for which APEC is becoming famed. Given the massive debate that has been keeping delegates sleepless in Seattle - should APEC become a community with a small or large ''c'' - perhaps the ''d'' in dialogue should also be up for discussion. Each leader presented a statement; China's Jiang Zemin went so far as to print and distribute a bilingual version of his. At the final photo call, Mr Clinton presented the group's vision of an era of Asia-Pacific co-operation and further dialogue, and Mr Jiang beamed broadly, snug in Beijing-issue overcoat and scarf. Leaders of Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries shivered in shamefully inappropriate jackets looking for all the world like refugees or illegal immigrants, while others were swamped in APEC-issue anoraks, presumably rushed in for the occasion. Shortly afterwards, a briefing was called - American press only. The 200-plus Asian reporters spent a cold hour kicking their heels. It was left to the real star of the week to provide an equitable - if more oblique - breakdown of events. Mr Jiang, whose consummate professionalism has ensured his face will be as well known in Seattle as Mao Zedong's is in Chengdu, gesticulated, hammed and made impassioned pleas on the most unlikely issues. He was flanked by more security guards than Mr Clinton, and his style made the man from Little Rock look like an amateur. He ended by releasing his hard-working interpreter and lapsing into English, wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving - and leaving to thunderous applause.