HONG KONG and Taiwan will find it difficult to take part in the landmark top-level meeting of Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) on an equal footing with others, according to the Australian Minister for Trade. The participation of the two economies was called into question after China demanded they be banned from the proposed heads of state meeting in Seattle in November. Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Gareth Evans said yesterday: ''It is an issue that has to be talked through. ''It is not going to be easy to have a leaders' meeting at which Hong Kong and Taiwan attend at leader level.'' However, he said it should be possible to resolve the issue ''in an amicable way''. It has been suggested that lower ranking representatives should be sent, although this could cause problems in the case of Hong Kong. The summit meeting, the brainchild of Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating, was strongly endorsed by US President Bill Clinton at the Tokyo Group of Seven nations meeting in July. Mr Evans has been among those wanting to promote APEC to community status from its current talking-shop co-operation level at this week's Indonesia Forum conference in Bali. Delegates are overwhelmingly in favour of both institutionalising APEC and underlining its enhanced status through a November meeting. Politicians and academics alike have thrown their weight behind the two-pronged move to beef up APEC, and it now appears Malaysia alone has chosen not to attend the meeting in Seattle. Thailand remains lukewarm. Mr Evans said: ''Everyone is confident now the summit meeting will proceed. It is going to be an important new element in the equation.'' The Hong Kong Government has taken an active part in APEC since it was formed in 1989, and has contributed 2.75 per cent of this year's budget. Sources say the Government views itself as a full and equal member of the forum, and as such would expect to take a full and equal part in all its activities. Malaysia has refused to attend the summit meeting, which it claims would turn APEC into a trade bloc. Mr Evans said: ''It is entirely up to the Malaysians the level at which they wish to participate.'' Mr Evans said: ''In the longer term, APEC could reasonably seek to achieve such a level of economic co-operation - particularly in trade policy - as to justify calling itself not just an Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation process, but an Asia-Pacific Economic Community. ''However, while the aim would certainly be to create an institution with more operational teeth than just an Asia-Pacific OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development], it would not realistically be to create, even over the longer term, something as highly integrated, comprehensive and formal as the European Community,'' he said.