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Asian-Pacific Leaders Want 'Bold' Moves For Free Trade

Asian and Pacific trade ministers wrapped up talks in South Korea with what they call bold steps in dropping trade barriers. Officials agreed on a formula for cutting tariffs on manufactured goods.

South Korean Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chung says the meeting of trade chiefs from the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation nations has turned the tide on stalled efforts to liberalize world trade.

The delegates from the 21 APEC members agreed on a framework for cutting import tariffs on non-agricultural manufactured goods. The formula will require steeper cuts for many developing nations, which usually have high import tariffs to protect domestic industries.

Mr. Kim says member nations also have pledged to push toward enacting a set of trade liberalizations known as the Doha Development Agenda, or DDA.

"It was with a sense of imminent urgency that we approached the issue of how APEC, as a group, can make a tangible and meaningful contribution to moving the DDA process forward," said Kim Hyun-chung.

The delegates also agreed on measures to fight corruption, terrorism and intellectual property theft.

The two-day trade gathering was a prelude to this year's APEC summit, which will be held in Busan, South Korea, in November. But this meeting featured a growing trade dispute between the United States and China.

Robert Portman (r) and Bo Xilai
Washington recently imposed curbs on Chinese textile imports after an end of global textile quotas led to a flood of Chinese garments into the U.S. market.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Portman met with Chinese Trade Minister Bo Xilai to discuss the issue.

Mr. Bo defended Chinese export policies:

Mr. Bo says China's growing textile exports are within its rights as a member of the World Trade Organization.

Mr. Portman says U.S. curbs on Chinese textile imports also are in line with the agreement China signed when it joined the WTO four years ago.

Mr. Portman says the textile dispute should be viewed in the broader context of China's $162 billion trade surplus with the United States.

"The textile trade actually is relatively small, about 1.5 percent of that U.S.-China trade," said Robert Portman. "So, only 1.5 percent of China's exports would even be subject to the safeguards."

Mr. Portman says he and his Chinese colleague also discussed ways of enforcing intellectual property rights. Sales of illegally copied software and entertainment products in China cost U.S. companies billions of dollars a year.

Separately, four APEC members struck their own free-trade deal during this week's conference. Singapore, Chile, New Zealand, and Brunei said they are eliminating tariffs on 90 percent of all trade among them. The signing nations say they hope other APEC nations will join the free trade group, which goes into effect next year.