Accessibility links

APEC Leaders Pledge Action on Trade, Bird Flu


Asia-Pacific leaders have challenged the rest of the world to help them cut global trade barriers and boost economic growth. Trade dominated the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group, but the agenda also included bird flu and North Korea's nuclear-weapons programs.

Leaders from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group, or APEC, say they are ready to lean on the rest of the world for a breakthrough in global trade.

APEC members, who together account for half the world's trade, endorsed two statements at their summit in Busan, pushing for more open markets and tighter cooperation on a number of issues.

Summit host South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun made it clear what the APEC leaders want.

Mr. Roh says the leaders expect progress at next month's World Trade Organization talks.

WTO members have been negotiating four years over wide-ranging free-trade goals, but agreement has been blocked by issues such as agricultural market access. The successful talks at the December WTO meeting are seen as crucial to meeting those goals.

The APEC statement specifically calls for solving the impasse on agriculture. Although the statement does not mention the European Union, over the past few days, APEC members have made clear they expect action on the farm issue from Europe, which has highly protected markets.

But a trade deal also will require compromises by Japan and South Korea, which also have tight restrictions on food imports.

The summit statement also pledges that APEC will cooperate against a possible human pandemic of bird flu.

The H5N1 virus already has devastated poultry industries in much of Asia. There are fears that a human pandemic would devastate many APEC economies and that some smaller APEC members would be unable to care for infected citizens.

In addition, President Roh said leaders backed diplomatic efforts on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programs.

Mr. Roh says leaders especially welcomed a September joint declaration by the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

The declaration calls for North Korea to dismantle its nuclear programs, in return for aid and other benefits.

Saturday's summit wrapped up with the annual group photograph. It is APEC tradition for the host country to provide leaders with clothing representative of its culture. South Korea furnished each leader with a "durumagi", a brightly colored traditional silk robe.

At a news conference following the summit, President Roh defended one of the meeting's goals - finding ways to narrow the social inequalities sometimes created by global trade competition.

President Roh says his agenda is often misconstrued as being opposed to globalization. However, he says his social aims are compatible with free markets. APEC members plan to begin a study on social disparities next year.

Next year's APEC summit, in Vietnam, will be dedicated to the issue of sustainable, equitable economic growth for the region.

Mr. Roh also praised the city of Busan for its handling of the security and logistics for the APEC gathering, which drew thousands of participants and journalists. An overwhelming police presence here helped keep protests smaller than expected and mainly peaceful.

XS
SM
MD
LG