APEC bids to unlock stalled world trade talks

Updated: 2006-11-13 08:34

HANOI, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Asia-Pacific economies will try to help revive world trade talks and look for ways to combat counterfeit and pirated goods at this week's APEC meetings in Vietnam, officials said on Sunday.

Senior officials said they were examining the "spaghetti bowl" of free trade agreements among the 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group members to ensure they do not unduly increase transaction costs for businesses.

The so-called Doha round of World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks collapsed in July amid disagreements over subsidies and tariffs for farm goods.

"APEC can lead the way for all members of the WTO to reignite negotiations and conclude the Doha Development Agenda next year," said Le Cong Phung, the deputy foreign minister of Vietnam, which is hosting the annual leaders' week.

"If APEC can identify a way forward, this path will most likely be suitable to the broader WTO membership."

The Doha Round has been touted since 2001 as a way to boost the world economy and fight poverty.

An APEC statement said senior officials discussed "unlocking stalled WTO negotiations, the adoption of APEC's model for free trade agreements and guidelines to secure supply chains against counterfeit and pirated goods".

Senior officials will meet again on Monday to set the agenda for a ministerial discussion this week that will culminate in a summit of presidents and prime ministers on November 18 and 19 in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi.

APEC, which was established in 1989, says its members account for about 40 percent of the world's population, 56 percent of world GDP and about 48 percent of world trade. The group includes the major economic powers of the United States and China.

The conference, held in an imposing new glass and concrete $260 million National Convention Centre in a suburb of Hanoi, is the biggest international event hosted in the history of Vietnam.

Hanoi won approval on November 7 to become a WTO member by the end of the year, part of the Southeast Asian country's 20-year long transition to capitalism from a centrally-planned economy.

With gross domestic product growth of 8.2 percent expected this year, Vietnam is APEC's second-fastest growing economy after China.

APEC comprises Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.

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