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U.S. seeks progress in ATL at APEC.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 2 Kyodo

The United States said Thursday it wants the forthcoming meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum to provide a major boost to market-opening talks under the accelerated tariff liberalization (ATL) initiative.

Briefing reporters on the Sept. 12-13 APEC summit to be held in Auckland, New Zealand, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Richard Fisher said, "We want to carry forward with ATL."

Fisher said he hopes that ATL talks at APEC will "enhance momentum" of trade liberalization in a new round of multilateral trade negotiations to be launched following the late November ministerial meeting in Seattle of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

"APEC is already on board toward an agreement (on the ATL initiative) in the WTO in 1999," he said.

The ATL initiative calls for the early liberalization of nine designated sectors, including fast-track tariff cuts on the sensitive forestry and fishery areas Japan has most opposed.

ATL originally stemmed from APEC's 15-sector early voluntary sectoral liberalization (EVSL) program.

At their 1997 summit in Vancouver, APEC leaders chose 15 sectors for proceeding with the removal of tariff and nontariff barriers. Nine of the 15 sectors, including forestry and fishery, were designated as priority areas.

But at last November's APEC meeting in Kuala Lumpur, the ATL scheme was botched due to opposition from Japan over an early tariff reduction plan for the two sensitive sectors.

Tokyo has maintained APEC members agreed in Kuala Lumpur to discuss the ATL issue next year at the new WTO round, not at APEC.

Fisher said, "All members have signed on to ATL. That includes Japan. And now the question is how we move this forward so that there is a specific achievement in Seattle."

At a separate news conference earlier in the day, U.S. Ambassador to APEC Richard Boucher echoed Fisher's sentiment, saying the question on ATL is "how we push it forward for the WTO and get the other countries do to it."

Boucher said it is unfair to see some countries support and endorse ATL with more enthusiasm than others.

"It's a balanced package that met the needs of all the APEC members," he said.

The nine priority sectors under ATL are chemicals, energy, environment goods and services, gems and jewelry, medical equipment, toys and telecommunication standards as well as forestry and fishery.

Telecommunication standards, which do not involve tariff reductions, have been concluded within APEC in the form of a mutual recognition agreement.

The remaining six areas under the EVSL program are food, oil seed, autos, aircraft, fertilizers and rubber.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Date:Sep 6, 1999
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