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Asia-Pacific Agree Trade Tariff Stance

Asia-Pacific trade ministers agreed on Friday to a formula for calculating tariffs on non-agricultural goods as part of efforts to further World Trade Organization talks.


Ministers from 21 member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation body (APEC) agreed on the so-called "Swiss formula" for non-agricultural tariffs, ministers announced in a statement issued after a meeting on Jeju island, South Korea.


The agreement will allow APEC members to take a common stand on tariffs on manufactured goods at the WTO talks.


"The Swiss formula involves steeper cuts to higher tariffs in order to harmonize tariff rates across countries," Australia's Trade Minister Mark Vaile said in a statement issued after Friday's meeting. "The agreement will inject new momentum into WTO negotiations."


Friday's statement comes after trade ministers from 30 nations agreed on a formula for simplifying global farm tariffs at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development forum meetings in Paris last month.


The plan paves the way for reduced duties and allows leaders to proceed with broader WTO talks.

Talks on the WTO accord that would set rules of international commerce for 148 nations began in Doha, Qatar, in 2001.


They collapsed in 2003 because of disagreements over farm subsidies.


Negotiations resumed last year but have not moved as quickly as some nations hoped due to still unresolved farm subsidy issues.


The WTO talks are supported by companies such as Caterpillar Inc and Citigroup Inc, that see the elimination of import tariffs and other trade barriers as an opportunity to increase overseas sales.


The World Bank says US$800 billion a year - more than Canada's gross domestic product - could be added to the world economy if an accord is reached.


Negotiators want to secure the framework for an accord in time for a December WTO meeting in Hong Kong.


WTO negotiators are scheduled to meet in Geneva next month to negotiate a first draft for actual tariff cuts.


Trade ministers of some member nations of the trade body are also to hold talks at a meeting in Dalian, China.


Friday's "breakthrough in discussions is positive for all members of the WTO as they prepare for the much anticipated WTO ministerial conference in Hong Kong," the APEC statement said.


(China Daily June 4, 2005)


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