HANOI - Cabinet ministers from the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum
began talks on Wednesday seeking ways to revive comatose global trade talks and
get their own Pacific rim free trade area off the drawing board.
APEC foreign and trade ministers convened at Hanoi's spanking new,
German-designed US$270 million National Convention Centre in a modern Hanoi
suburb for Vietnam's international coming-out party.
But the annual extravaganza that will
culminate in Sunday's Leaders' Summit began on a sour note after the
US Congress failed to pass legislation normalising trade ties with Vietnam,
America's old Cold War foe.
Officials meet at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
(APEC) Summit in Hanoi November 15, 2006. Cabinet ministers from the Asia
Pacific Economic Cooperation forum began talks on Wednesday seeking ways
to revive comatose global trade talks and get their own Pacific rim free
trade area off the drawing board. [Reuters]
House Republican leaders had hoped to give Bush a strong send-off to Hanoi by
approving the bill, the final step in normalising trade relations between the
former war enemies but it failed again on Tuesday, after being turned down the
Officials prepared an agenda earlier this week that includes reviving the
Doha round of global trade talks, which collapsed in July amid clashes over
subsidies and tariffs for farm goods.
They have also prepared a "Hanoi Action Plan" to implement a free trade and
investment pact among APEC members that was first articulated at the Bogor,
Indonesia, meeting in 1994.
However, the vision of a vast free trade area along the Pacific rim has lost
considerable momentum to a plethora of mini-deals -- at least 50 FTAs have been
agreed or are under discussion among countries represented at APEC, experts say.
PROLIFERATION OF MINI-PACTS
Business leaders, who annually prepare recommendations for the APEC summit,
urged speedier progress towards the Asia-Pacific free trade area to counter the
proliferation of mini-pacts that are adding costs and complexity to doing
business in the region.
The APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) also urged leaders of the 21
Pacific rim economies meeting in Hanoi to take stronger steps to curb trade in
pirated goods and develop better plans to deal with pandemics such as bird flu.
APEC says its members account for nearly half of global trade, 40 percent of
the world's population and 56 percent of the world's gross domestic product.
While it remains too early to say what will come out of this week's talks,
the United States wants a strong APEC statement to "help reinvigorate the Doha
round", Deputy US Trade Representative Karan Bhatia told Reuters in Washington.
Some trade experts believe APEC leaders could give a much-needed jolt to the
nearly dead Doha round of world trade talks by promoting a regional free trade
US, Japanese and South Korean envoys to talks aimed at getting North Korea to
abandon its nuclear weapons programme were due to meet on the sidelines of the
APEC meeting on Wednesday to discuss an early December resumption of the stalled
"I think we will try to use the next few weeks to be very busy and maybe
begin the talks sometime in early December, probably," US envoy Christopher Hill
said in Hanoi.
North Korea, which conducted a nuclear test last month, has boycotted the
talks involving the United States, the two Koreas, Japan, Russia, China since
APEC ministers will also consider adopting a raft of counter-terrorism
measures, including ways to upgrade airport and seaport security, secure food
against deliberate contamination, and sharing information about avian flu and