APEC Ministers See Growth Potential,
Urge New WTO Round

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) ministers Thursday expressed their confidence in tiding over the present economic difficulties and appeared optimistic in the region's medium- and long-term growth potential.

They strongly urged the launch of a new round of World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations this year.

"Ministers affirmed their confidence in the medium- and long- term prospects of growth in the APEC region and agreed to strengthen cooperation to tackle the short-term economic difficulties," said a statement issued after the conclusion of the two-day meeting.

Foreign and trade ministers from APEC's 21 members, however, admitted that some member economies were "affected considerably" by the slowdown in the United States, Japan and Europe since the end of last year and that the September 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. has further exacerbated the situation.

The ministers emphasized the need to achieve the Bogor goals and undertake structural reform and sound domestic policies to create a favorable macroeconomic environment for growth. Under the Bogor goals, developed and developing economies would achieve trade and investment liberalization by 2010 and 2020 respectively.

The ministers expressed their strong support for the launch of a new round of WTO negotiations in 2001.

"Given the global economic slowdown, ministers agreed on the critical importance and urgency of successfully launching the round at the Fourth WTO Ministerial Conference to re-energize the global trading system," said the 18-page statement.

The ministers called for "strong political will and flexibility " from parties concerned in determining a balanced and " sufficiently broad-based" agenda to launch the new round.

They insist that the new round should include further trade liberalization and the strengthening of WTO rules and reflect the interests and concerns of all members, especially those of the developing ones.

They asked for "special and differential treatment" to the effective implementation of the concerns of developing economies.

They congratulated China on the successful conclusion of negotiations on its WTO entry and urged the completion of the accession procedure in the forthcoming WTO Ministerial Conference.

The ministers vowed to avoid measures that would increase the levels of trade protectionism. They promised to maintain the APEC- wide moratorium on the imposition of custom duties on electronic transmissions until the Fourth WTO Ministerial Conference and agreed to extend the moratorium until the fifth conference.

While stressing the importance of trade and investment liberalization, the ministers gave priority to human capacity building and economic and technical cooperation so that developing economies could share benefits of globalization and the knowledge- based new economy.

Trade liberalization and economic and technical cooperation are dubbed the "two wheels" of APEC, with developed members emphasizing the former and developing ones the latter.

"Ministers recognized that human capacity building is a vital means to meet the challenges of globalization and the new economy, and affirmed its importance as one of the core priorities in APEC, " said the statement.

Under the Human Capacity Building Promotion Program, major efforts will be made in 2001-2004 to train, free of charge, 1,500 IT professionals for APEC members, especially the developing members and to develop a virtual classroom to help APEC members popularize computer and Internet basics among their people, and to establish a cyber forum for APEC human capacity building.

The ministers also sanctioned a set of new initiatives to better prepare APEC economies for the new economy. It said the ministers endorsed an e-APEC strategy and urged members to take concrete and concerted actions to implement it "so as to maximize the benefits of the information and communications technology revolution, address the 'digital divide' and benefit from the opportunities presented by the emerging new economy."

They also reaffirmed their commitments to tripling Internet access by 2005 and allowing all groups within an economy to have Internet access individually or through community-based services by 2010.

The ministers also approved the APEC budget for 2002 of 8.576 million U.S. dollars.

(People's Daily 10/19/2001)

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