Mon, Nov 13, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Meet sets APEC agenda

CONCERN Officials worry that US-supported drive for an Asia-Pacific free trade zone will derail efforts to achieve the existing Bogor trade and investment goals

AFP , HANOI

Senior officials of key Asia-Pacific economies met yesterday to finalize the agenda for the bloc's annual meeting that will draw 21 world leaders to Vietnam.

US President George W. Bush, China's Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and Russia's Vladimir Putin are among the heads of state due to arrive in Hanoi in the next few days ahead of their formal summit next Saturday and Sunday.

"The informal meeting has started," APEC Secretariat spokesman Christopher Hawkins said. "This is the last chance for senior officials to discuss the issues the ministers and government leaders will take up in the week."

Senior officials at yesterday's informal retreat were due to discuss ways to unlock stalled WTO negotiations and reduce the spread of counterfeit and pirated goods, APEC said in a statement.

"APEC can lead the way for all members of the WTO to reignite negotiations," said Vietnam's Deputy Foreign Minister Le Cong Phung, chairing the meeting of officials.

They are considering whether a separate leaders' statement should be issued on the Doha round of negotiations to underline heightened concern over the suspended talks and call for their resumption, officials said.

"What they are going to do is just make a call for the immediate continuation of the negotiations of Doha," a diplomatic source said.

"Probably we are not going to have specific proposals because the most important issue will be the relaunch, the re-initiation of the negotiations," the source said.

Officials will also grapple with a US-supported drive to study the creation of a massive Free Trade Area of Asia Pacific (FTAAP).

While nations such as Chile, New Zealand and Singapore have backed the idea, others worry over the difficulty of reconciling disparate levels of development among APEC's 21 members, officials said.

"There is so much difference among the APEC economies in all kinds of things, including in social structures and the structures of our economies. It would be more difficult to have the FTAAP," a source close to the talks said.

Officials are also concerned the proposal will derail efforts to achieve APEC's so-called Bogor goals, which aim for free trade and investment among developed economies by 2010, and developing ones by 2020.

"If there is an FTAAP, will that add any value to what we are doing now? Will it deviate from what we are committed to, or will it add to our goals?" the source said.

We have to work out whether this idea will fit into what we are committed to or not," the source said.

also see story:

Analysts question feasibility of an Asia-Pacific FTA

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