Sun, Nov 20, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Summit statements take aim at trade talks, bird flu, WMD

AFP , BUSAN, SOUTH KOREA

Asia-Pacific leaders yesterday challenged the EU to make deeper cuts in farm subsidies, vowed action against bird flu and urged North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

Wrapping up a two-day summit, the APEC forum also pledged to break up terrorist groups and prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

But efforts to rescue the Dec. 13-18 WTO meeting in Hong Kong, which aims to finalize an ambitious accord on breaking down trade barriers, dominated the gathering in Busan.

The 21 APEC leaders issued a statement calling for compromise on agriculture to keep the so-called Doha round of WTO talks alive. The statement did not mention the EU by name, but it rejected the EU's position that it has made enough compromises on agriculture and followed growing irritation in Brussels with APEC pressure.

"A successful conclusion to the Doha Round is crucial for the future credibility of the WTO," the leaders said.

"We call for the breaking of the current impasse in agriculture negotiations ... Avoiding or compromising our ambition on this issue would mean that we lower expectations for the round as a whole," the statement said.

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin told reporters some APEC members wanted to name the EU but that several countries with large farm subsidies, such as Japan, objected.

Cracks quickly emerged in APEC's resolve, however, with Japan saying it had no plans to offer cuts in its agriculture subsidies before Hong Kong and even suggesting a possible alliance with the EU.

The leaders' main statement, the Busan Declaration, pledged initiatives to combat bird flu while Australia unveiled a US$70 million plan to fight a possible pandemic.

They also pledged to test if the region was ready to cope with a pandemic, to improve information and border controls, and to hold an exercise next year testing regional responses.

The declaration pledged to eliminate WMDs, to dismantle terrorist groups and boost action against corruption.

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