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APEC summit ends with pledge for Doha deal

Asia-Pacific leaders called for a speedy resolution to stalled global trade talks on Sunday, pledging flexibility and ambition to get the outline of a deal by year's end.

business Updated: Sep 10, 2007 15:54 IST
Richard Pullin

Asia-Pacific leaders called for a speedy resolution to stalled global trade talks on Sunday, pledging flexibility and ambition to get the outline of a deal by year's end.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said the call was included in the final declaration after a two-day meeting of APEC leaders that included Russia, the United States and China.

The leaders issued a statement of "very strong support for the Doha round and an urgent request for all countries involved in the Doha process to renew their efforts to achieve an outcome, emphasising that agriculture and industrial products are the two priority areas", Howard said.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum's 21-member economies account for half of global trade.

U.S. President George W. Bush, who left the summit a day earlier to prepare for a key report on Iraq, had pushed for a strong statement of support, calling the troubled Doha round of talks in Geneva a "once-in-a-generation opportunity".

In a separate statement, APEC leaders were expected to pledge "the political will, flexibility and ambition to ensure that the Doha round negotiations enter their final phase this year".

Trade negotiators may be edging closer to a deal on the most divisive issues in the Doha talks, World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Pascal Lamy said on Saturday.

"There is a strong sense that it's make-or-break moment. It may take a few weeks, but my sense is that there is a lot of focus and energy," Lamy told CNBC television.

Trade diplomats returned to the negotiating table last week in an attempt to wrap up the Doha round, which was launched in the Qatari capital in November 2001 to help poor countries improve their lot through freer trade rules.

Lamy has repeatedly urged countries to complete the talks by the end of this year to avoid the negotiations running into the U.S. presidential election year, when Washington is expected to have little flexibility to negotiate.

Negotiations have stumbled over reducing farm subsidies in the United States, Europe and Japan, and scaling back industrial tariffs in emerging markets like China, India, Brazil, and South Africa.Many analysts doubt WTO countries can overcome their differences, and see the round slipping into hiatus for years.

The APEC leaders also agreed to strengthen regional economic integration and would further explore the possibility of a Free Trade Area for their region, Howard said.

CARBON TRADING

Pacific Rim leaders, including Bush, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russia's Vladimir Putin adopted a "Sydney Declaration" on climate change on Saturday, calling on members to set voluntary, non-binding targets to cut emissions, while increasing energy efficiency and forest cover.

Proponents say the declaration creates consensus on the thorny climate change issue and will carry weight at a series of meetings in Washington, New York and the Indonesian island of Bali about replacing the Kyoto Protocol, due to expire in 2012.

But some developing countries in APEC were not very happy about the Sydney Declaration.
Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare told fellow leaders he had reservations about signing the document, according to a statement issued by his office on Sunday.

"Despite our efforts at this APEC meeting, no recognition is given to the initiatives pursued by the Coalition for Rainforest Nations on reducing carbon emissions from deforestation," said Somare, whose country is being heavily logged and where some smaller islands are being flooded by rising sea levels.

He also said carbon trading mechanisms were not adequately addressed in the declaration.

The declaration was seen as a compromise between rich and poor APEC economies, which together account for about 60 percent of the world's economy.

Asia-Pacific leaders also agreed to take various steps to ensure the health and safety of the region's population, including counter-terrorism measures, Howard said.

The action was not aimed at China, which has been grappling with a series of product recalls in a number of countries, ranging from toys to toothpaste, APEC host Australia said.

The declaration was expected to deal with other threats to regional economic growth, including terrorism, natural disasters, food supply contamination and pandemics, such as bird flu.

A study in Singapore found the impact on APEC economies from a major terrorist attack would be $137 billion in lost GDP and $159 billion in reduced trade.

(Additional reporting by Michael Perry and John Ruwitch)

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