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APEC leaders to put more zip into WTO talks
Updated: 2004-11-17 15:58

Leaders of Asia-Pacific economies controlling nearly half of global trade plan to put more zip into world trade talks by stepping up political pressure on tightly protected areas.

A member of the Chilean special forces keeps guard at the site of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Santiago. Asia-Pacific leaders plan to call for greater opening of tightly protected trade sectors. [AP Photo]

US President George W. Bush, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and other leaders from the 21 APEC economies meeting in Chile this week are expected to call for greater opening of both the farm and non-farm sectors and providing more market access to developing nations.

Trade ministers from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum will set the pace for their leaders by seeking "ambitious results in terms of access for agriculture products, non-agriculture products and services," Canadian Trade Minister Jim Peterson told reporters.

The ministers, who start two-day talks on Wednesday before the summit, will consider "substantially reducing trade distorting domestic support and getting rid of any type of export subsidies," he said.

Peterson did not mince words as he slammed neighbor the United States and the European Union for injecting massive farm subsidies to keep competition at bay.

"It is important for the WTO (World Trade Organization) to look into the prospect of dramatically reducing the huge, enormous agriculture subsidies the United States and the EU are giving -- subsidies which make it difficult for our farmers to compete globally -- and putting pressure on the developing countries," he said.

US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said Washington was prepared to "work with others" in the Santiago meeting "to build on APEC's market-opening efforts."

"As this is the first ministerial meeting since the WTO framework agreement reached in Geneva, I look forward to discussing with my colleagues plans for continuing to advance the Doha global trade talks," Zoellick said in Washington.

"During these negotiations, APEC has emerged as a constructive voice for pushing global trade liberalization," he said.

Thailand's Trade Minister Watana Tailandia said APEC had always been in the forefront in setting the WTO Doha Development Agenda and "we'll again try our best."

Supachai Panitchpakdi, the WTO Director-General, is scheduled to meet with APEC trade ministers here to underline the need for the forum to push forward the Doha agenda ahead of the WTO ministerial meeting in Hong Kong next year, officials said.

"There is a need perhaps to obtain in Hong Kong next year for the drafting of modalities for trade negotiations to support the Doha process," Osvaldo Rosales, Chile's top trade official in the foreign ministry, said.

US Deputy Trade Representative Peter Allgeier had said that significant reduction of domestic support in the agriculture sector had become a controversial issue in the United States and "very controversial" in several Asia-Pacific countries.

"But if we are going to have a full package of liberalization, including liberalization in manufactured goods and services, we are going to have to have a very robust program in agriculture, including significant reductions in domestic support," he told an international conference last week.

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