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US Applauds APEC for Progress on Free Trade, Other Issues

The top U.S. official for the 21-member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum says most media attention at the group's recent summit in Chile focused on North Korea. But at a Washington breakfast sponsored by the Asia Society, the official said the U.S. government had several other priorities for the overall meeting.

Lauren Moriarty, the State Department official responsible for APEC, says North Korea was indeed discussed during the summit in Chile, but only on the sidelines.

"All the members of the six-party talks, except for North Korea, are members of APEC; thus it's not surprising that the president discussed North Korea during his bilateral meetings," she says.

But she adds that Washington was also concerned with other issues.

"In fact, in work and throughout the year, the United States had three priorities for Santiago and APEC - promoting free trade, enhancing security and combating corruption," Ms. Moriarty says. "And we made good progress in each of those areas during this year."

She said the U.S. government's main goal is to promote free trade. She praised an APEC statement supporting progress in ongoing negotiations at the World Trade Organization, which she referred to as the world's most important vehicle for trade liberalization.

Ambassador Moriarty pointed to areas where APEC members have agreed to cooperate to enhance security. She said the steps agreed to include export controls, ship and port security, and a protocol that each APEC economy will conclude with the International Atomic Energy Agency, by the end of 2005.

"And that commitment will help to give the IAEA the tools it needs to do its job in preventing nuclear proliferation. The commitment also reflects the APEC region's determination that illicit nuclear activities will not take place in this part of the world," Ms. Moriarty says.

The third priority Ambassador Moriarty pointed to was promoting transparency and fighting corruption, an issue she said APEC leaders were very enthusiastic about.

"Specifically, APEC members committed to deny safe haven to officials and individuals guilty of corruption, those who corrupt them and their assets," she says.

The 21 APEC economies of the Pacific Rim account for 40 percent of the world's population, about one-half of the world's trade and nearly 60 percent of global production.