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APEC Members Mull Terrorism's Effect on Trade
The ministerial meeting leading up to the 10th annual Economic Leaders Meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum ended in Los Cabos, Mexico Thursday with the adoption of a joint statement highlighting counter-terrorism and trade facilitation.

Speaking at a press conference at the end of the ministerial meeting, Mexican Secretary of Economy Luis Ernesto Derbez, the chairman of the meeting, said APEC foreign and trade ministers participating in the meeting condemned the recent terrorist attacks in various parts of the world, including the hostage-taking by a group of Chechen rebels in Moscow.


Counter-terrorism has been a major topic of the two-day ministerial meeting, held in the Mexican tourist resort of Los Cabos.

The joint statement issued at the end of the ministerial meeting said: "Terrorism, in all its forms, is a threat to economic stability in APEC, as well as a threat to regional peace and security, and a direct challenge to APEC's vision of free, open and prosperous economies."

The terrorist attack in the Indonesian resort island of Bali onOct. 12, which killed at least 185 people, is a tragic reminder ofthe importance of maintaining a united, committed and sustained effort to ensure that terrorism does not prevent APEC from achieving its goals.

"Ministers again condemned terrorism in the strongest terms. They endorsed and referred to leaders the report prepared by the APEC Secretariat on measures adopted by members jointly, and as individual economies, in response to the APEC 2001 Leaders' Statement on Counter-Terrorism," the statement added.

According to the statement, substantial progress has already been made by APEC in implementing specific leaders' commitments tosuppress the financing of terrorism, enhance air and maritime security, strengthen energy and other critical sectors security, and enhance security-related cooperation on customs and border security.

"The collective and individual efforts of APEC economies have limited the economic fallout from the Sept. 11 attacks and strengthened the resolve of ministers to push ahead with APEC's ambitious economic growth and cooperation agenda. Ministers reaffirmed the importance of achieving the twin goals of enhanced security against terrorist threats and continued promotion of economic growth, including facilitation of the movement of goods, capital and people. In order to achieve those goals, ministers discussed new cooperative commitments that APEC could adopt in theareas of trade, finance and communications," the statement said.

In particular, APEC ministers recommended that APEC leaders adopt the Secure Trade in the APEC Region (STAR) initiative, the statement said, adding that "ministers welcomed plans to hold a seminar on STAR on Feb. 22-23, 2003 in Bangkok, Thailand."

On Wednesday, US Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta told a press conference here that the United States and other members of APEC are working to develop the STAR initiative designed to expedite the movement of goods and people and simultaneously add anew layer of collective security.

Mineta said the STAR initiative would heighten passenger safetywithin APEC by requiring the use of biometric technology, such as fingerprints, on all entry and exit travel documents; establishinginternational standards for baggage and passenger screening; and by calling for reinforced flight deck doors for all passenger aircraft by April 2003 -- one year earlier than required by other international agreements.

The joint statement said that with the view of halting the flowof financing to terrorists while ensuring efficient financial markets, APEC ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the APEC Action Plan on Combating the Financing of Terrorism approved by the APEC Finance Ministers Meeting.

"The plan seeks to deny terrorists access to the world's financial system," through such measures as "improved international cooperation and better monitoring of alternative remittance systems and charities and non-profit organizations."

"Ministers instructed officials to explore how to best provide capacity building assistance to developing economies to effectively implement APEC initiatives against terrorism," the statement said.


On trade facilitation, the joint statement said that APEC ministers emphasized the importance of APEC's trade and investmentfacilitation goals and welcomed the development of the APEC Trade Facilitation Action Plan.

They agreed to recommend that APEC leaders endorse the APEC Trade Facilitation Action Plan including the agreed menu of concrete trade facilitation actions and measures.

APEC ministers emphasized the importance of implementing the Action Plan for the realization of reducing transaction costs across the APEC region by 5 percent by the end of 2006.

"They agreed that all APEC members should identify which concrete actions and measures they intend to implement in 2003 andbeyond," the statement said.

Besides, APEC ministers participating in the ministerial meeting acknowledged the project of APEC's Economic Committee titled "The Benefits of Trade and Investment Facilitation in APEC," demonstrating that if all the APEC economies reduce transaction costs by 5 percent in five years, APEC's Gross Domestic Product will increase by 1 percent.

The ministerial meeting was a prelude to the 10th annual APEC Economic Leaders Meeting scheduled for October 26-27.

APEC was set up in 1989 in response to the growing interdependence among Asia-Pacific economies and to the need to advance Asia-Pacific economic dynamism and sense of community. Nowthe bloc groups Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Chinese Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.

(Xinhua News Agency October 25, 2002)

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