Mon, Nov 15, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Trade, terror to top APEC agenda

AFP , WASHINGTON

President of Academia Sinica Lee Yuan-tseh, center, yesterday waves to the public as he prepares to depart for Chile for the APEC summit.

PHOTO: CHU PEI-HSIUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

US President George W. Bush and other Asia-Pacific leaders meet in Chile this week to grease rusty world trade talks, suppress terror and prod North Korea to abandon a nuclear weapons program.

Top guests at the heavily secured Nov. 20-21 summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum are Bush, on his first foreign trip since re-election, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Chile is deploying 3,500 police and monitoring national airspace for the meeting, say officials in Santiago. Special immigration checks are being implemented. Hotel guest lists will be scrutinized.

In the run-up to the summit, senior officials were holding a meeting yesterday and today. Trade and foreign ministers -- including US Secretary of State Colin Powell -- gather Nov. 17-18.

APEC organizers say the big issues are: how to deal with a growing web of one-on-one and regional free-trade deals; how to secure people against terrorism and diseases such as SARS; anti-corruption measures; and enhancing financial markets.

When the leaders gather, they usually set their own agenda, analysts said.

Among the major issues to be discussed are:

TRADE

Business executives have asked APEC leaders to consider setting up a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific.

"I think that is going to be the big issue," said Fred Bergsten, director of the Institute for International Economics.

"I think it is a very good idea. I think the US government should push it. I think there is a good chance that it will be accepted next week and that new initiative will get rolling."

A regional free trade area would get APEC's laggardly trade liberalization schedule back on track, he said.

It also would be "the best possible shot in the arm for a successful WTO negotiation because it would alert the Europeans and others to the risk that the APEC countries, like 10 years ago, were getting serious about their own liberalization, and the rest of the world would therefore have a huge incentive to do it multilaterally to avoid new discrimination."

NORTH KOREA

It may come up with APEC or in one-on-one talks on the sidelines, but analysts said "axis of evil" member North Korea's nuclear weapons program will likely be on Bush's agenda.

Five members of the six-party talks on North Korea's program -- with the exception of North Korea itself -- will be at the summit.

Bush plans to discuss the issue in a meeting with South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun, said Jane Skanderup, analyst at the Honolulu, Hawaii-based Pacific Forum Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"Many people are hoping that there will be a very strong statement from South Korea and the US urging North Korea back to the talks. And even better if China and Japan and Russia, [who] will all be present at APEC -- they are the other members of the six party talks -- would also sign on to that," she said.

ANTI-TERRORISM EFFORTS

APEC talks will likely focus on terrorism's impact on the economy, analysts said.

The US may also push for an anti-corruption agreement to clean up murky financing, they said.

US officials appeared satisfied with a program in which their customs officials were pre-inspecting US-bound exports from Asian shipping ports, according to Edward Lincoln, senior fellow at the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations.

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