APEC leaders express concern over stalled global trade talks

Oct. 8, 2013 at 10:25 AM
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NUSA DUA, Indonesia, Oct. 8 (UPI) -- Leaders at the Pacific Rim summit in Indonesia ended the meeting declaring that global trade talks were stalled and urged ministers to move the talks forward.

Members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum suggested the talks, overseen by the World Trade Organization and designed to reduce tariffs risked collapse if the impasse continued, The New York Times reported.

"We are now at the 11th hour to put the negotiating function of the World Trade organization back on track," said the statement read by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the summit host.

Several officials at the gathering at Nusa Dua on Bali, acknowledged to the Times that the gathering produced fewer substantive accomplishments than last year's meeting, where the group approved an environmental goods-and-services pact calling for tariffs on 54 products, such as solar panels, to be reduced to 5 percent or less.

The urgency of saving the Doha talks from collapse caught the summit's attention, said Allan Bollard, executive director of the APEC Secretariat, based in Singapore.

"There's a strong message they really want Doha to work, but there's also at the same time quite a high expectation with real big problems around it and something of a sense of frustration about that," he said.

The lack of movement over the Doha round allowed efforts at regional trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership gain legs, the Times said.

A final Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement "must reflect our common vision to establish a comprehensive, next-generation model for addressing both new and traditional trade and investment issues, supporting the creation and retention of jobs and promoting economic development in our countries," a statement on the TPP issued by the White House said.

"As we work to conclude these negotiations, we will further intensify consultations with stakeholders to craft a final agreement that appropriately addresses the interests of our citizens," the statement said. "We look forward to review and consideration of the outcome of our work, consistent with each of our domestic processes."

APEC leaders also said they set a goal of having a million students participate in a university-level students exchange program by 2020 to promote more people to people contact in the region, Indonesia's Antara news agency reported.

APEC officials also agreed to work further on the Travel Facilitation Initiative designed to promote tourism and facilitate business by making travel more accessible, convenient and more efficient, as well address safety and security issues, Antara said.

The declaration also contained a commitment to develop programs to encourage greater and regular involvement of youth in APEC to foster a sense of community and shared responsibility in contributing to the growth of the Asia-Pacific region.

Also Tuesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for building a framework of connectivity across the Asia Pacific region, China's state-run news agency Xinhua reported.

Xi said APEC economies should establish a connectivity network covering the all of the Asia-Pacific region to help boost economic corridors and foster a market covering 21 economies and 2.8 billion people.

APEC economies also should remove bottlenecks barring connectivity and establish investment and financing partnerships that include participation from governments, private sectors, and international institutions, Xi said.

APEC members should promote connectivity and infrastructure construction within the frameworks of regional and international cooperation, the Chinese president said.

Xi called on APEC members to take advantage of connectivity to help people in the Asia-Pacific region establish closer ties in economic and trade matters, finance, education, science and culture.

China will host the APEC informal economic leaders' meeting in Beijing next fall.

The APEC summit was clouded by U.S. President Obama's absence because of the partrial government shutdown in Washington. Secretary of State John Kerry led the U.S. delegation at APEC and will head the American delegation at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Brunei.

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