Thu, Nov 18, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Protesters clash with police as APEC meet starts

AP , SANTIAGO, CHILE

Top ministers from 21 economies ringing the Pacific Ocean gathered in Chile to convene high-level talks on free trade and global security as university students clashed with police to protest the summit and weekend visit of US President George W. Bush.

Police in Chile's second-biggest city of Valparaiso used tear gas and water trucks Tuesday to disperse scores of masked protesters who threw Molotov cocktails and burned an American flag.

Authorities said one police officer and two television cameramen were injured. At least two demonstrators were detained.

More demonstrations against the annual APEC forum are planned throughout the week, including a government-authorized march tomorrow through the streets of Santiago.

APEC foreign ministers and trade ministers were to hold meetings yesterday and today on issues ranging from fighting terrorism and corruption to a proposal to create a free trade area that would link the Americas to Asia. Leaders gather on Saturday and Sunday.

The ministers are under some pressure from the APEC Business Advisory Council, or ABAC, which recently proposed creating a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific that would stretch from China to California and from Australia to Chile's southern tip.

The group asked APEC leaders to establish a task force to study the issue, but a trade zone spanning the Pacific Ocean would take years to create.

Experts say the FTAAP zone won't be taken seriously until the APEC nations decide on a framework for actual negotiations. Huang Chih-peng (黃志鵬), a top Taiwanese trade official, said ministers are sure to discuss the idea but said it's unclear what the world leaders will decide.

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