HK to push liberalisation at Apec

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 October, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 October, 1998, 12:00am

Hong Kong will stress the need for commitment to trade liberalisation when its delegation attends next month's Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) forum meetings in Kuala Lumpur, Director-General of Trade Alan Lai Nin said yesterday.

Priority would be given to achieving agreement on early voluntary sector liberalisation (EVSL).

Mr Lai said the only obstacle to full agreement among the 18 members was from Japan which maintained concerns about fish and forestry products.

Economic ministers were required to report their conclusions on EVSL this year.

'If we could agree to an EVSL package I'd regard it as the major achievement of Apec this year,' Mr Lai said. Special effort would be devoted to the issue of electronic commerce.

Although some Apec members needed to be reassured about security and training issues, Mr Lai was hopeful that the Kuala Lumpur meeting would produce a plan of action for 'e-commerce'.

He did not anticipate any review of the deadlines agreed to at the Bogor Declaration on free trade in 1994, but the emphasis on free trade was necessary to guard against the temptation of protectionism during a period of economic downturn.

At Bogor, Apec economic leaders agreed to achieve open and free trade by 2010 and 2020 for developing countries.

Mr Lai said it was not necessary to push back these deadlines because of the financial crisis across Asia over the past 15 months.

'[They are] still a long way away and we don't even know what is going to happen in the next two years, so there's no need to backtrack,' Mr Lai said.

'Expansion of international trade in times like these could in fact be the answer to the problem.' Mr Lai denied that Hong Kong's agenda at Apec was dictated by mainland authorities, saying that the SAR's independence on matters of trade was respected.

'We do talk to each other, but of course it is entirely business and we accept that we have different views,' he said.

Earlier this week a draft declaration at the Apec summit was released.

Among the resolutions were that Apec leaders would: Express concern over the widening contagion effect of the financial crisis and reaffirm commitment to Apec action programmes to alleviate the effects of the crisis.

Note the need to strengthen and improve the architecture and resilience of the international financial system.

Agree on the need to strengthen social security nets.