Asia-Pacific Leaders Commit to Free Trade, Security, Community
USINFO Special Correspondent
Washington - Leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member economies outlined their commitment to advancing free trade and investment, enhancing human security and building stronger societies and harmonious communities in a joint statement issued in Hanoi, Vietnam, at the conclusion of the 14th APEC Leaders' Meeting November 19.
Affirming their continued support for World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations on the Doha Development Agenda, or Doha round, the leaders noted that “the consequences of the failure of the Doha Round would be too grave for our economies and for the global multilateral trading system.” The leaders resolved to try to break current deadlocks and achieve "an ambitious and overall balanced outcome of the Round" focused on development issues. (See USA and the WTO.)
Under APEC’s goal of advancing free trade, the leaders also acknowledged the role of high-quality, consistent, transparent and comprehensive regional trade agreements/free-trade agreements (RTAs/FTAs) in advancing trade liberalization and the need to ensure that RTAs and FTAs lead to greater trade liberalization and "genuine reductions in trade transaction costs.”
In recognition of the emerging economies in the Asia-Pacific region, the leaders reiterated their commitment to greater economic integration in the region and pledged to strengthen their efforts by “seriously consider[ing] more effective avenues towards trade and investment liberalization.” The declaration calls for studies on promoting regional economic integration, including the creation of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific as a long-term prospect, for review at the 2007 APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Australia.
ENHANCING HUMAN SECURITY
Regarding security issues, the APEC leaders expressed their continued commitment to combat terrorism "in every form and manifestation” and reaffirmed that any measures taken to combat terrorism must comply with international obligations. (See Response to Terrorism.)
Among the counterterrorism initiatives endorsed and "encouraged” by APEC’s member communities, the leaders cited the following actions:
• Emphasizing total supply chain security as a priority for 2007 and welcoming a study by APEC economies to look at ways to facilitate the recovery of trade in the event of major disruptions to the global supply chain caused by terrorist attack or other calamities;
• Welcoming measures to improve aviation security;
• Encouraging member economies to further share strategies and develop best practices to defend the food supply from deliberate contamination; and
• Welcoming the expansion of the Regional Movement Alert System and noting that the system is open to additional member economies.
The leaders also called for enhanced cooperation on a number of global issues, including avian influenza (bird flu), HIV/AIDS, emergency preparedness and disaster response and energy security. In particular, the leaders commended the launch of the APEC Biofuels Task Force.
BUILDING STRONGER SOCIETIES, HARMONIOUS COMMUNITIES
Regarding efforts to build stronger societies and more harmonious communities, the leaders noted the progress and achievements made in 2006, but also recognized the importance of economic and technical cooperation to ensure equitable growth and shared prosperity in the region and global competitiveness as a foundation to advance trade.
Citing corruption as "one of the greatest obstacles to economic and social development," the leaders agreed to fight corruption and "usher in a community of integrity" by effectively implementing the APEC Anti-corruption and Transparency Task Force’s initiatives through enforcement of anti-bribery laws, prosecution, law enforcement and denial of safe havens. (See Bribery and Corruption.)
The leaders also welcomed the APEC Intercultural and Faith Initiative, acknowledging that, "in order to support economic growth and to promote a healthy multi-cultural environment, it is important to deepen mutual understanding and develop social interaction through inter-cultural and faith dialogue in the APEC region."
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, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.
The full text of the leaders' declaration is available on the APEC Vietnam 2006 Web site.
For more information on U.S. policy, see Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).