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APEC Closes With Pledge to Advance Global Trade Talks


The 21 leaders of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum ended their annual two-day summit in Australia with calls to bring to a quick resolution stalled global trade talks. VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins is in Sydney and brings us this report.

Leaders from the 21 economies that make up the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation group pledged Sunday on the final day of their two-day summit to jump-start the stalled World Trade Organization Doha Round of talks. Their closing statement said there was an "urgent need" for progress.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard, host of this year's summit, says member economies pledged to bring determination and flexibility to the bargaining table.

"We've agreed on a leader's declaration and a statement of very strong support for the Doha Round and an urgent request to all countries involved in the Doha process to renew their efforts to achieve an outcome, emphasizing that agriculture and industrial products are the two priority areas," Mr. Howard said.

The talks are stalled over disputes in how to cut trade barriers in farm goods, industrial products and services.

APEC members account for about half of the world's trade.

Mr. Howard said APEC leaders agreed to explore the ways to further free trade and business in the Asia Pacific region.

"The key elements of the leaders' declaration are endorsement of a plan to strengthen regional economic integration, including agreement to continue to examine a free trade area of the Asia Pacific, agreement to a series of measures to improve the business environment, and also a series of measures to deal with issues of human security, including terrorism, pandemics, contaminated food, energy security, and natural disasters," Mr. Howard said.

But Mr. Howard insisted the key outcome of the summit was the Sydney Declaration on climate change.

"It has been an extremely successful meeting and by far the most important statement to come out of it was the Sydney declaration on climate change which embraced the need to achieve aspirational goals for the entire world in relation to greenhouse has emission and also endorse specific goal regarding energy intensity and forest cover for the aggregate of the APEC countries," Mr. Howard said.

The declaration calls on APEC members to set voluntary, non-binding targets to cut greenhouse emissions, thought to be a major contributor to global warming.

Environmentalists say the declaration does not go far enough and had called on APEC for firm reduction targets rather than non-binding goals.

Mr. Howard's hopes that his hosting of the summit would bolster his re-election chances might have been dampened by the praise showered on his opposition Labor Party competitor Kevin Rudd for speaking fluent Chinese with Chinese Premier Hu Jintao.

An election for prime minister must be called before the end of the year.

Mr. Howard gained endorsements from leaders such as U.S. President George Bush, but most Australians are critical of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, and many resented the heavy security imposed on Sydney for this leaders' summit.

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