U.S. Welcomes APEC Trade Ministers' Commitment to WTO Doha Round

By Susan Krause
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - The United States welcomes a commitment by trade ministers of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum to take action on critical issues that have created an impasse in the current round of World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) said in a press release June 2.

Officials from the APEC member economies concluded a two-day ministerial meeting in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, June 2 with the release of a general statement on various trade issues and a separate statement calling for urgent efforts to bring negotiations on the WTO's Doha Development Agenda to a successful conclusion by the end of 2006.

The development agenda, also known as the Doha round, was initiated at the WTO's fourth ministerial conference in Doha, Qatar, in 2001 and has sought to liberalize trade and enhance market access for agricultural products, manufactured goods and services.  Negotiations fell into stalemate early on, largely over agricultural trade disputes. 

"We welcome today's statement by APEC trade ministers," Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said.  "This gathering - representing many of the world's most dynamic economies - has made clear that it will stand united in support of an ambitious and robust Doha outcome."

The trade ministers' statement on the Doha negotiations reiterated the agreement reached by leaders of the APEC member economies at their November 2005 meeting in Busan, South Korea. (See fact sheet.)

"Our leaders agreed last November that breaking the impasse in the agricultural negotiations, in particular market access, will unblock key areas, including non-agricultural products and services," the statement says.  "This is still the case."

The ministers set a deadline of June 2006 for an agreement on agriculture and nonagricultural market access (NAMA) modalities.  They said they would need to have an overall working package with draft texts by July in order to achieve a final result on the Doha negotiations by the end of the year.

In agriculture, the ministers agreed to reduce trade-distorting domestic support programs and export subsidies.


To improve market access, the ministers also agreed to build on an earlier APEC commitment to adopt a "simple Swiss formula" for tariff reduction, supporting a system with two coefficients applied to developed and developing economies.

Developing countries had objected to the simple Swiss formula, claiming it ignores their special needs.  Because the formula applies deeper cuts to higher tariffs, resulting in a narrower range of final tariff rates, it would have a disproportionate effect on developing countries, which tend to have higher tariffs than industrialized countries.  A two-coefficient approach would offset such complaints somewhat.

"Leadership in trade must be exercised in bold, politically courageous moves with concrete proposals to lift the negotiations to a big overall result," Schwab said, noting that the United States has made ambitious proposals in all areas of the Doha agricultural negotiations.  "Today, the APEC economies reiterated their commitment to exercise their leadership to making Doha a success."


The APEC ministerial made progress in several other areas, USTR said.

APEC trade ministers agreed to complete two new model guidelines for intellectual property rights protection before the 2006 Leaders' Meeting, which will take place in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, in November.  The guidelines, building on an existing APEC anti-counterfeiting and piracy initiative, will focus on developing effective public awareness campaigns and keeping pirated or counterfeit goods out of supply chains.

The ministers also recommended that APEC leaders endorse the principle that government entities should not use illegal software on their networks or engage in illegal file-sharing on the Internet.

Member economies also agreed to intensify their efforts to negotiate "comprehensive, high-quality, and transparent" free trade agreements.

The ministers also agreed to prepare a set of principles promoting the development of open and voluntary international standards, as opposed to government-mandated standards; merit- and performance-based government procurement policies; and freedom of choice in technology products for service providers and consumers.

APEC is the primary forum for facilitating economic growth, cooperation, trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region.  The 21 APEC member economies are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.

For additional information on U.S. policies, see Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

The full text of the USTR news release is available on the office's Web site.

The Statement from the Chair of the APEC Trade Ministers' meeting and the Statement on the Doha Development Agenda are available on the APEC Web site.