The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, whose 21 members account for nearly half of world trade, is saying "no" to India and a slew of other countries that want to join, for now.
Expansion of the grouping is being delayed, at least until 2010, according to a draft of a statement to be released by APEC leaders this weekend.
"No new members," Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Mitsuo Sakaba said when asked.
The decision leaves pending membership requests from a dozen countries including India, Mongolia and Colombia. The backlog is due in part to a 10-year moratorium on new members APEC imposed in 1997 that was supposed to expire this year.
The draft leaders' statement did not say if the moratorium would be formally extended. The leaders could decide to change the terms at their weekend meeting. The fact that the paragraph on expansion in the draft was enclosed in brackets means that officials were still wrangling over the wording.
"We agreed to review the issue of membership in 2010/2011/2012," the bracketed text said.
The new members were being put off because the group, in the draft's words, does not want expansion to slow momentum toward "regional integration and open economies."
But the delay also comes from APEC's complicated politics, diplomats and officials said. The group has tried to strike a balance between rich and poor members, Asian and American ones.
India's presence would be a big boost for the Asian camp and its bid is supported by the US. If India is admitted, Pakistan and Sri Lanka would want in too.
Food, product safety
The APEC members are trying to map out a more robust approach to strengthening the region's food and product safety standards as ministers from the 21-member bloc opened their annual meeting yesterday.
The measure is among a number of initiatives outlined in a draft declaration prepared for the meeting of trade and foreign ministers from the APEC forum ahead of their leaders' summit at the weekend.
"We agreed on the need to develop a more robust approach to strengthening food and consumer product safety standards and practices in the region, using scientific risk-based approaches, and without necessarily compromising trade," the draft declaration says.
(China Daily September 6, 2007)