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APEC leaders to focus on salvaging trade talks, anti-terrorism
( 2003-10-20 15:36) (Xinhua)

As leaders of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum kick off their two-day meeting in Bangkok on Monday afternoon, how to revive the Doha Round multilateral trade talks and strengthen anti-terrorism will be certainly the dominating topics.

The APEC economic leaders' meeting comes one month after the collapse of the World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico, and one year after the devastating terror bombings on the Indonesian island of Bali, which killed 202 people.

Sources quoted senior APEC officials as saying that the first day session of the leaders' meeting will focus on how world leaders should be flexible and exercise political will to bring the Doha Round to a successful conclusion.

The leaders are expected to discuss how APEC may contribute to this round of multilateral trade talks and how they may further liberalize trade and investment to fulfill the Bogor Goals of free trade by 2010 for developed APEC members and 2020 for developing ones.

Since the start of the APEC annual gatherings on Oct. 14, the failure at Cancun has been most frequently discussed. While they regretted the "missed opportunity" in Cancun, senior officials and ministers have repeatedly called on APEC to play an active role in advancing the Doha Round and urged APEC members to re-establish " common purpose, commitment, and contribution" in this regard.

"They reaffirmed that a successful outcome (from the Doha Round) is essential for strengthening the global trading system, promoting global economic development and well-being, as well as achieving the Bogor Goals," said a joint statement issued after the conclusion of the ministerial meting.

The senior officials prepared the agenda for the ministerial meeting, before the ministers finalized the agenda for the leaders ' meeting.

At the APEC CEO meeting which opened on Sunday, World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi also called on WTO members to revive the Doha Round by recommitting themselves and showing flexibility and readiness to compromise.

The WTO is under mounting pressure to achieve a timely conclusion of the Doha Round of multilateral trade talks after the Cancun setback due to deep discrepancies between the developed and developing members on market access, agricultural subsidies and tariff structures.

Since the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States in 2001 and the Bali bombings last year, anti-terrorism has become an increasingly important issue at the meetings of APEC, which is basically an "economic forum."

Some APEC members may not be so eager to allow the issue to dominate the meetings and turn APEC into a "forum of security," strong attention has been paid to strengthening anti-terrorism among APEC economies.

The ministerial meeting agreed to block cross-border movement of equipment, funds and people involved in terrorist activities, while enhancing the free flow of legitimate travelers, trade and investment.

To counter the emerging threat of shoulder-mounted man-portable air defense systems (ManPADs) to civil aviation, the meeting agreed to strengthen domestic controls on the "production, stockpiles, transfer and brokering" of ManPADs.

During the meeting, the United States proposed establishing a counter-terrorism fund under the framework of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). Washington will provide US$5.4 million to launch the fund, to be run by the Asian development Bank.

The APEC economic leaders will discuss the above-mentioned proposals made by senior officials and ministers concerning anti- terrorism.

The leaders will also go into details on efforts to further implement the Trade and Investment Liberalization and Facilitation of APEC, which targets a 5-percent reduction of transaction cost by 2006, and discuss further Ecotech.

The ministers have endorsed a shortlist of four priorities for Ecotech -- integration into the global economy, promoting the development of knowledge-based economies, addressing the social dimension of globalization, and counter-terrorism capacity building.

The leaders are expected to endorse the Transparency by 2005 Strategy agreed by ministers responsible for trade, which serves the purpose of enhancing business transparency.

The structural reform of APEC will also be on the minds of the leaders, which could be one of the priorities of APEC in the coming years.

Furthermore, they will discuss the proposals of the APEC Business Advisory Council, which has outlined key points to improve the business environment.

When they conclude their meeting on Tuesday, the leaders are expected to issue a joint declaration.

Set up in 1989 in response to the growing interdependence among Asia-Pacific economies and to the need to advance Asia-Pacific economic dynamism and sense of community, APEC now groups Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Chinese Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.

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