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Free trade dominates APEC leaders' meeting ahead of summit

11-11-2010 08:34 BJT Special Report:President Hu Attends APEC Summit in Yokohama |

YOKOHAMA, Nov. 10 (Xinhua) -- Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member economies agreed not to introduce new trade barriers until 2013 on Wednesday, as Japan's foreign minister Seiji Maehara highlighted the region's importance in driving the global economic recovery and reiterated the need to expand free trade.

During the first installment of the forum's ministerial two-day meeting, trade and foreign ministers reflected and evaluated the effectiveness of former deals made to facilitate trade in the region and will conclude with the issuing of a consensual statement made between member economies, that sets out a joint vision of renewed integration, cooperation and growth strategies.

The rejection of protectionism in favor of setting quantifiable trade targets to further facilitate growth in the region underpinned Wednesday's meeting with member states agreeing on the region's notable role and potential to support the global economic recovery, through cooperation and strategic growth planning.

World Trade Organization (WTO) Director General Pascal Lamy attended the meeting to update ministers on the Doha Round of global trade talks, which have stalled since their commencement in 2001 due to widening gulfs between advanced and major developing economies.

Whilst conceding the 2010 deadline will likely be missed, one official in attendance at the meeting said, "quite large number of countries said that a conclusion of the Doha Round within 2011 would become extremely important."

In addition, member economies were in agreement that prior commitments to maintaining current trade barriers and not raising them, should be kept and member economies should refrain from launching trade initiatives inconsistent with WTO parameters.

Participants were of the opinion that former commitments made should be kept beyond 2010 until at least 2013, officials said.

The outcome of their discussions will be reflected in a meeting of leaders to be held on Saturday and Sunday and many APEC leaders are pushing for an agreement to move toward creating an expansive trade zone that would encompass all 21 economies, from Chile to China and Canada to New Zealand.

Some smaller economies like Indonesia, however, have voiced concern about lowering trade barriers and have expressed the need to prioritize the current WTO impasse.

Takashi Omori, chair of the forum's economic committee, separately commented that member economies were in fact moving in a positive direction in their overall goals to make it 25 percent easier for countries in the region to conduct business by the year 2015.

Omori cited the importance of improving access to credit and business loans, ensuring contracts are legally binding, reduce cross border trade burdens and improving business start-up infrastructures.

So far, New Zealand and Indonesia have led the way in cutting bureaucracy, Omori said.

"Indonesia is an enthusiastic participant, they have made good progress," he commented.

"If there is strong leadership by the top political leaders, it is very easy to proceed," Omori said, adding that he is confident the target can be met, urging political leaders to push the plan forward.

APEC's 2010 Economic Policy Report is due for release Thursday and the talks in the lead up to the report form part of a wider structural reform agenda for APEC.

Set up in 1989, APEC accounts for about 52.7 percent of the world's gross domestic product and 44.4 percent of global trade by value. It operates on the basis of nonbinding commitments.

Editor:Xiong Qu |Source: Xinhua

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