Pacific Rim Leaders Warn of Consequences

The Associated Press
Tuesday, November 14, 2006; 1:35 PM

HANOI, Vietnam -- Pacific Rim leaders call for a resumption of stalled global trade talks in the draft of a statement to be released at their meeting here this weekend. They also instruct their negotiators to be more flexible to avoid the "grave" economic consequences of failure.

Leaders from the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum pledge to "actively consider" the creation of an APEC-wide free-trade agreement as a long-term goal. Pacific Rim nations account for 57 percent of the world's economy and about half its trade.

The draft, obtained by The Associated Press, does not mention North Korea, although the issue was high on the summit agenda. Envoys from South Korea, Japan and the United States were to meet Wednesday in Hanoi to hammer out a common strategy ahead of six-way nuclear talks with the North.

But the document does stress the importance of ensuring security to advance prosperity in the region, saying the leaders are "determined to continue efforts to combat terrorism."

There also appeared to be differences among members on the appropriate way to deal with the threat of weapons of mass destruction. Two sentences about WMD are enclosed in brackets, meaning some members wanted that material deleted.

President Bush is joining Chinese President Hu Jintao, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe among leaders attending the summit in Vietnam's capital of Hanoi.

Founded in 1989 as an economic forum, APEC's mission has broadened rapidly in recent years to encompass security, the environment, health and other issues. The draft statement, for instance, endorsed a plan to fight bird flu and cooperate in improving regional pandemic preparedness.

With time running out for a World Trade Organization agreement that would slash global trade barriers, the APEC leaders sounded an urgent call for the resumption of the so-called Doha round of trade talks that collapsed in July over differences in farm trade.

"The consequences of the failure of the Doha round would be too grave for our economies and for the global multilateral trading system," the draft statement says. "We should, therefore, spare no efforts to break the current deadlocks."

In an effort to reach an agreement, the leaders will "instruct our negotiating teams to exercise flexibilities in all areas" of the WTO talks, the draft says.

WTO members want to conclude negotiations before President Bush's authority to negotiate a trade deal that can be submitted to Congress for a simple yes-or-no vote without amendments expires in mid-2007.

Environment was also expected to be on the agenda for the weekend. Australian Prime Minister John Howard said Tuesday he would be pushing for a global system to limit greenhouse gas emissions but allow countries to buy and sell their emission rights.

But Howard, whose conservative government has refused to ratify the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on climate change, said any response to global warming must not hinder Australia's fossil fuel-driven economy.

© 2006 The Associated Press