New Negotiation Vital

Foreign affairs and trade ministers of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) yesterday agreed to gear up collective and individual efforts in the pursuit of free trade in the region and under the umbrella of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

"The (APEC) member economies recognize the sense of urgency in launching the new round of global trade talks," said Wang Guangya, secretary-general of China Secretariat for APEC 2001, at a press conference summarizing the ministers' first day activities in their two-day meeting.

The ministers believe the launch of the new round of negotiations - expected to take place next month at the fourth WTO Ministerial Meeting - is particularly crucial at this time to counter impact from the terrorist attacks in the United States in September and to bolster confidence in the world economy, said Wang, who also serves as China's vice-foreign minister.

He said ministers shared a consensus that the agenda of the negotiations should be broad-based to reflect the interests and positions of different economies and a spirit of flexibility should be recommended.

At yesterday's ministerial meeting, some member economies briefed participants of the preparatory works completed during the WTO's meetings in Mexico and Singapore for the launch of the new trade round.

"We feel that the positions of different parties are getting closer and the situation is moving positively to the launch," Wang said.

In addition to their clear statement of vocal support, Wang said APEC member economies have also agreed to enhance their work in capacity building for the implementation of WTO agreements to display their support for the new round.

As for the region, Wang told reporters that the ministers called for rejuvenated work to achieve the Bogor Goals, which were set at the APEC leaders' meeting in 1994 that aimed to have free trade and investment in the region by 2010 for developed member economies and 2020 for developing ones.

The fresh call will be formalized by the APEC leaders in the Shanghai Accord, an annex to their joint statement to be issued at the end of the leaders' weekend meeting, Wang said.

The Shanghai Accord will cover some "concrete, quantitative" items to ensure serious implementation by all APEC member economies, he said.

The trade and investment liberalization process within APEC has been obtained by APEC member economies' individual action plans on voluntary bases.

But Wang confirmed a review mechanism could be introduced under which "member economies can comment on one another's actions and remind each other so our goals can be met on time."

Wang said the topic of anti-terrorism will be discussed at the APEC meetings but it will by no means change the APEC's nature as an economic forum.

He said the discussion on anti-terrorism is a "special case." It was put on the agenda because of its major impact on regional and global security and the world economy.

(China Daily 10/18/2001)

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