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2ND LD: APEC members to issue special WTO statement to revive Doha Round.

HANOI, Nov. 13 Kyodo


Leaders from the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum will issue a special statement to breathe fresh life into the dormant Doha Round of trade liberalization talks under the World Trade Organization, Vietnamese First Deputy Foreign Minister Le Cong Phung said Monday.

''We affirmed that support for the global multilateral trade system is a top priority of APEC. Given the deadlock and disruption of the DDA, all members agreed that APEC leaders will issue a stand-alone statement on the DDA at the summit,'' Phung, who chaired a two-day senior officials' meeting through Monday, said at a press conference.

DDA stands for Doha Development Agenda -- the Doha Round of trade liberalization talks launched in the Qatari capital in 2001. The round was suspended in July after negotiations among six key players -- the United States, the European Union, Japan, Australia, India and Brazil -- broke down mainly over farm issues.

The Vietnamese chair said the special document will include ''specific measures and recommendations to demonstrate the strong determination of all APEC members in order to resume negotiations.'' APEC leaders are scheduled to gather in Hanoi on Saturday and Sunday.

Phung described the upcoming summit as a ''decisive meeting'' and a ''last chance for APEC to save the DDA from deadlock.''

WTO Director General Pascal Lamy is scheduled to attend the APEC ministerial meeting and is expected to hold talks with representatives of the key trading powers.

There is a proposal that APEC should urge the WTO to conclude the Doha Round by the end of next year, but the exact wording is still under discussion, conference sources said.

APEC foreign and trade ministers, who will meet in the Vietnamese capital on Wednesday and Thursday, will seek to conclude the Doha Round in 2007, according to a draft joint ministerial statement, a copy of which was obtained by Kyodo News on Monday.

''Ministers called on all WTO members, especially the major players, to reassess their negotiating positions for necessary flexibility so that the negotiations were resumed at the earliest opportunity and come to a speedy, successful and balanced conclusion in 2007,'' the draft paper says.

Since 2004, APEC has issued four stand-alone documents to push forward the Doha talks. Members are disappointed that those statements proved ineffective, with the Doha Round put on hold, some sources said.

But members agreed to continue to show APEC's determination to move the WTO talks forward, because if a strong message is not issued this time it could be interpreted as indicating the regional body's intention to give up on the multilateral trade liberalization process, they said.

As for the idea of eventually creating an APEC-wide free trade area, Phung said some APEC members are studying it for consideration by leaders.

''The major reason is multilateral trade is well advanced in the region. All the APEC members note the necessity to discuss now and consider it as a long-term goal,'' he said, adding that this initiative will not affect the future establishment of bilateral free trade pacts, the WTO process or implementation of the 1994 Bogor Goals.

The Bogor Goals, adopted at an APEC leaders' meeting in Indonesia, call on developed economies to try to realize free and open trade and investment by 2010 and for developing economies to do so by 2020.

APEC was set up in 1989 and groups Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, South Korea, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Date:Nov 20, 2006
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