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APEC Ministers Urge Progress in World Trade Talks

Asia-Pacific countries have called for urgent action to break an impasse over global trade talks. Trade ministers also pledged to take steps to open agricultural trade.

Trade ministers from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation members said their governments want to successfully wrap up the World Trade Organization's Doha Development round by the end of this year.

The global trade talks on cutting tariffs, subsidies and other trade barriers were a key theme of a two-day meeting of trade ministers from 21 APEC countries in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City.

At the end of the meeting Friday, the trade ministers said they agreed to increase market access for farm goods by cutting domestic subsidies and eliminating all forms of export subsidies by 2013.

The Doha round of global trade talks, due to be completed by the end of 2006, have stalled because of disagreements over subsidies and tariffs in the farm sector.

The Pacific Rim economies in APEC - including the United States, China and Russia - account for about half of the world's trade.

Charles Li, director of the APEC Study Center in Hong Kong, says one major task for the meeting was to assess what members have done in line with the Doha round.

"I suppose they can use this opportunity for the APEC economies to rub each others' shoulders, so to speak, and check who is doing what, and see who is doing what, and see whether everybody is doing the same thing or different things," he said.

In their final statement, the trade ministers called for an agreement on cutting non-farm tariffs. They also urged their governments to make progress on an earlier pledge to create an APEC free-trade zone starting in 2010.

Other topics of discussion included the growth in the number of bilateral free trade agreements and regional trade deals.

APEC trade ministers also addressed the organization's work on averting a serious trade crisis should the avian influenza become a human pandemic.