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APEC Weighs Economic Costs of Fighting Terrorism

Australia is issuing a special report warning that failure to address terrorism will hurt economies across the Asia Pacific region. Terrorism and security are at the top of the agenda during the current Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer is warning states that the economic consequences of ignoring terrorism could be severe. He said a report from Australia has calculated the economic effects of terrorism.

"If you don't deal with terrorism," said Mr. Downer, "the economic consequences, including for our region, are going to be catastrophic; the decline in investment that will flow from a failure to deal with terrorism; the decline in trade, the increase in unemployment."

The Australian report, released Friday at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings in Bangkok, says terrorism has cost the U.S. economy about $75 billion a year since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon near Washington.

Indonesia lost one percent of its gross domestic product after the terrorist bombing in Bali last year, which is blamed on the al-Qaida terrorist affiliate, Jemaah Islamiyah.

Mr. Downer said this is a lesson for other APEC members. "You've seen in the case of Bali, the Bali bombing knocked one percent of the whole of Indonesia's (economy) - a country of 220 million people," he said. "So you see what the cost of terrorism is if you do nothing about it."

The shipping industry - big business in export-oriented Asian economies - has spent at least $1.3 billion to protect itself from maritime terrorist attacks. The report says this is in addition to annual operating costs of $730 million.

The report estimates that APEC members will spend $9.3 billion over the next five years to protect the aviation industry from terrorism. The heavy investment will also shield tourism, which is a vital income earner for many APEC economies.

Mr. Downer says these statistics underline the need for cooperation among the 21 members of APEC. The group is expected to release a communiqué next week vowing to stop militant groups operating in the region and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.