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Health risks on 2005 APEC forum agenda
Updated: 2005-11-13 10:00

The annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum kicked off in South Korea's southeastern port city of Busan on Saturday, with free trade, counter-terrorism, oil prices and fighting corruption on top of its agenda.

Volunteers in traditional Korean clothes welcome guests of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Busan, South Korea, Nov. 12, 2005. The meeting opened on Saturday. [Xinhua]
For the first time, a global response to health risks such as avian influenza will be included in the agenda.

Earlier in the day, senior officials from the 21 APEC member economies began their two-day meeting to finalize the agenda for the Economic Leaders' Meeting scheduled on Nov. 18-19.

The main theme of this year's APEC forum is "Toward One Community: Meet the Challenge, Make the Change," reflecting the member economies' vision to become a unified global community with an open multilateral trading system as the key to economic growth.

The APEC forum opened amid tight security in Busan following the recent deadly terror attack in the Jordanian capital of Amman. Some 30,000 police have been deployed in the port city to provide security for the APEC forum, while another 20,000 police have been mobilized to guard subway stations, train stations and important buildings across the country.

On the first day of the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting scheduledon Nov. 18, the Pacific Rim leaders will focus on the future direction of the WTO and Doha Round trade talks, the "Bogor Goals"and the response to regional trade agreements and free trade agreements.

The second day of the APEC Economic Leaders'Meeting on Nov. 19 will focus on human security, including measures against terrorismand corruption, co-measures for preventing epidemics, including avian influenza, as well as energy security.

The APEC forum will add momentum to finalizing a trade deal in Hong Kong next month by giving leaders around the world a chance to reaffirm the pledge to make substantial progress in the global trade talks, said Ban Ki-Moon, South Korea's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

"We expect the leaders of APEC economies in Busan to announce a statement promoting acceleration of the World Trade Organizations' Doha Development Agenda," the minister said earlier.

The Doha Round of World Trade Organization negotiations, first introduced at the fourth WTO biannual ministerial conference in Doha, Qatar in 2001, collapsed in 2003 due to deep differences between the developed and developing members on market access, agriculture subsides and tariff structures. The push by APEC leaders to keep the momentum going is seen as important because the region represents nearly half of the world trade.

But experts are not optimistic about the outcome of the WTO ministerial conference in Hong Kong next month.

"I don't think there is much hope for the Doha Round meeting in Hong Kong as there is no real movement on agricultural subsidies by the developed countries," Michel Yahuda, an expert on Asia-Pacific affairs at London School of Economics, told Xinhua.

The Pacific Rim leaders are also scheduled to adopt a joint statement entitled the "Busan Declaration," a special statement on the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) and the "Busan Roadmap" to trade liberalization in the region.

The "Busan Roadmap" will set the follow-up direction of completing free trade and investment in order to speed up market liberation beyond borders under the "Bogal Goals," which specify the APEC objectives for free and open trade and investment among industrialized members by 2010, and among developing members by 2020.

Among the leaders to attend this year's APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting are Chinese President Hu Jintao, US President George W. Bush, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun. The leaders will hold bilateral meetings on the sidelines of APEC forum.

"APEC 2005 in Busan will be another opportunity for APEC to demonstrate its consolidated stance on the advancement of free trade and enhancement of human security," said Kim Jong-hoo, South Korea's APEC ambassador.

Since its inception in 1989 in response to the growing interdependence among Asia-Pacific economies, APEC has become a formidable regional forum acting as the primary regional vehicle for promoting open trade and practical economic and technical cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.

For the last 16 years, APEC member economies have generated nearly 70 percent of global economic growth.

APEC currently has 21 members: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile,China, China's Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam. The chairmanship rotates among members, with South Korea holding the chair this year.

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