APEC trade ministers began meeting in Singapore on Tuesday to discuss ways of clinching a global liberalisation deal in 2010 with signs that major recession-hit economies may be on the mend.
Officials said the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting is the largest gathering of trade ministers so far in 2009 and follows a new consensus among key players to wrap up the Doha round of world trade talks next year.
“One of the advantages of the APEC meetings has always been the opportunity for us to meet informally within the APEC group and then also informally bilaterally and in small groups,” said Indonesian Trade Minister Mari Pangestu.
“So we will be using a lot of opportunities, not just inside the meeting but outside of the meetings, to be able to discuss and identify the specific issues,” she told AFP in an interview on Monday.
The eight-year-old Doha round of World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations aimed at tearing down trade barriers is among the items that will be discussed during the APEC meeting, the Indonesian minister said.
The meeting in Singapore comes just after a Group of Eight summit in L’Aquila, Italy where leaders of the world’s most powerful nations and emerging economies agreed to wrap up the Doha talks by 2010.
“That’s why APEC coming along two weeks after the L’Aquila (summit) is important to push the process along,” said Pangestu.
Singapore will host the next APEC summit in November.
Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean, who was attending the two-day ministerial meeting, said he hoped the Singapore talks would lend further momentum to the stop-start Doha process.
“I strongly believe a conclusion to the Doha round is the best means for keeping the forces of protectionism in check and for contributing to the emerging economic recovery we are now seeing in our region,” he told the Australian business community in Singapore on Monday.
WTO head Pascal Lamy, who will also participate in the Singapore meeting, said last month the Doha talks were back on track. Pangestu said 2010 was a “pretty realistic” target after eight years of discussions so far.
The Doha round was launched in the Qatari capital in late 2001 but has repeatedly foundered, notably over disputes between rich and developing nations on agricultural and industrial products.
APEC’s 21 member economies -- including the United States, China, Japan and Russia -- account for over half of the world’s gross domestic product and almost 44 percent of international trade.