APEC trade differences remain
By SIMON FLUENDY
MAJOR differences need to be resolved before senior Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation officials can produce the 'action agenda' on trade liberalisation in time for November's APEC leaders' meeting in Osaka.
Ambassador Seki, one of the Japanese co-chairmen of the senior officials' meeting in Hong Kong this week, said there were still differences of view among delegates on many points.
'In some areas, detailed discussions are on matters of principle and in others details are the order of the day,' he said.
Mr Seki said many of the delegates felt that 80 per cent of work needing to be done was completed.
He later said less than half of the 'action agenda' called for in the declaration of common resolve produced at last year's leaders' meeting in Bogor, Indonesia had been agreed to.
'Probably less than 50 per cent of the wording is agreed,' he said. 'There is a lot of work to do on that at our meeting in Tokyo in October.' He denied reports some delegations wanted agriculture excluded from APEC's trade liberalisation agenda, but said talks on the 'comprehensiveness' of the agenda produced 'differences of views'.
'No attempt was made at a compromise at this time,' he said. 'Both sides have equally strong views and there was no way to draft a solution.' Non-discrimination against companies from other APEC members was one area where no solution was found, he said. Another major area of discussion was on comparability.
'How do we compare liberalisation measures in one country with measures in another?' Mr Seki asked.
'On this issue, on the one hand we were debating issues of principle but we were also discussing processes and procedures,' he said. 'On matters of principle there are still many unresolved issues, but on procedures there was an extensive exchange of views and information which will hopefully be conducive to more advances on the issues of principle still under discussion.' Mr Seki said great progress had been made in the area of standards and compliance.
He was asked whether APEC was in danger of losing its credibility, and what it could hope to achieve when it was not a treaty organisation which could produce legally binding documents.
'It is not legally binding, but the decisions taken at APEC are politically binding,' he said.
Other delegates at the senior officials meeting refused to comment as they left.
Some of them later went on a night time boat trip organised by the Hong Kong Government.