Negotiations to liberalise US$1.5 trillion worth of Asia-Pacific trade by the end of next year have been set back as a number of countries join Japan in trying to stall the opening of some sectors. The mainland is believed to be among those seeking more time in opening the nine sectors that Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) leaders pledged to liberalise at their annual summit in Vancouver last year. Three days of talks by regional officials in Kuala Lumpur ended in stalemate yesterday, with negotiators accepting the likelihood some Apec economies will need more time. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said: 'The different capacities of economies to shoulder the same level of liberalisation must be recognised. 'Weakened economies cannot be expected to shoulder the same level of commitments to liberalise their market as the stronger ones.' The most contentious area has been the voluntary faster liberalisation of forestry and fishery products. Japan said it would opt out of these areas, and now other economies - including the mainland - are trying to back out. United States Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky held talks with Japanese Trade Minister Kaoru Yosano yesterday to express US dissatisfaction with Japan on a number of issues including its reluctance to fully participate in the programme. Ms Barshefsky emerged from the talks saying: 'We had an exceptionally blunt set of interchanges. The US is growing increasingly impatient with Japan on this and a number of issues.' Hong Kong Trade and Industry Secretary Brian Chau Tak-hay last night warned: 'If we are seen going backwards or rejecting trade liberalisation, protectionist forces will use it as an excuse. 'Apec needs to show the world more than ever it is not going back on trade liberalisation.' A spokesman for the Japanese Foreign Minister, Masahiko Komura, warned Japan would not be pressured into making concessions simply to achieve an outcome at the conference. She accused Apec members of forgetting that Japan was the biggest net importer of fish and forestry products. 'Japan does not expect that its delegation will walk out of these negotiations, unless it is forced to do so,' she said. Philippine Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon came to Japan's defence, saying it was wrong to portray it as a villain. Japan has offered $42 billion in aid to International Monetary Fund patients and is poised to give $30 billion to Asia. Malaysian International Trade and Industry Minister Rafidah Aziz said bullying was not in the spirit of Apec, and members should be encouraged and praised for making liberalisation offers, no matter how small.