The threat to global trade talks looked set to dominate the agenda of Pacific Rim leaders gathering in Busan after their ministers pressed them yesterday to talk tough to break a deadlock at the WTO.
Foreign and trade ministers concluding two days of meetings yesterday called on the world's trading powers to be flexible for the sake of world commerce but themselves stopped short of harsh words or of naming the European Union as the spoiler.
The United States and developing nations led by Brazil blame the 25-nation EU's reluctance to further open its market to farm products, and there had been suggestions that APEC ministers would call on the EU to offer deeper cuts.
Instead, they called on their own leaders to show "strong leadership" by issuing a statement asking "other WTO members to show flexibilities" after they meet tomorrow and Saturday. "We don't believe the world community will let this once-in-a-generation opportunity slip past us," US Trade Representative Rob Portman told a news conference.
Security grew ever tighter in Busan a city of about 3.7 million rimmed by seaports and beaches and backed by mountains as the first leaders started arriving yesterday.
Defences include anti-aircraft missile batteries, a team to battle chemical warfare assaults and police and soldiers highly skilled in the Korean martial art of taekwondo.
Although a terrorist attack is uppermost in the minds of security officials, the tens of thousands of police on alert were also alert for popular protests that have become a regular sideshow at international talkfests around the world.
Thousands of South Korean farmers protesting over the opening of rice markets clashed with police on Tuesday in the capital, Seoul, and activists say they hope to bring together as many as 100,000 people in Busan for a similar protest on Friday.
As US President George W. Bush arrived in Busan yesterday from Kyoto, Japan, a handful of women tried to hold up signs outside his beach hotel that said "Bush get out" before they were whisked away or pushed back by police.
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) ministers also agreed to strengthen co-operation in tackling bird flu before it becomes a pandemic and in battling terrorism as well as working towards lifting trade barriers across the region.
APEC participants were also watching closely to see how Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi fares in the summit. Tensions are high over visits by Koizumi to a war shrine that honors many World War II war criminals.
(China Daily November 17, 2005)