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Wednesday, 17 October, 2001, 15:13 GMT 16:13 UK
Apec tackles global slowdown
Ministers of the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation forum in Shanghai on Wednesday
Apec countries control much of the world's trade
Foreign ministers from the Asia-Pacific region are gathering in Shanghai to tackle the world economic slowdown and fight global terrorism.

The meeting will lay the groundwork for an Apec summit at the weekend between delegates including US President George W Bush, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, and Chinese leader Jiang Zemin.

This is an opportunity to spur, through discussions with key leaders there, strong economic global recovery.

Condoleezza Rice
US national security adviser
It will be the first meeting of world leaders since the terrorist attacks in the United States.

Security is tight in the Chinese city. Air space is restricted over Shanghai for the summit, 10,000 police officers and security personnel are guarding the streets and more than 100 road blocks were in place to screen people entering the city.

For China, the meeting is meant to symbolise the country's growing economic ties with the rest of the world - which were confirmed earlier this year when China was finally admitted to membership of the World Trade Organisation.

Economic issues

The WTO wants to launch a new round of trade talks in November, and he future of those trade talks is likely to be one of the key agenda items

"A move to launch a new global trade round would be a very good signal at a time of economic slowdown, help build confidence in the markets, help guard against protectionism and help build the basis for future growth," said US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick.

However, there is growing pressure to move the talks from the Gulf Arab state of Qatar to a less risky venue, such as Singapore.

And the terrorist attacks and the resulting US economic slowdown has had a severe impact on many Asian countries.

Apec (the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum) was set up to promote regional free trade, and its members have promised to open trade barriers within the region over the next decade.

"If we move faster or further on trade liberalisation, I believe we will be better off," said German King, the chair of Apec's trade committee.

"That would be a counterweight to the negative effects terrorism has in particular in the trade of goods and services across borders."

But the US will be calling for other countries, notably Japan, to make more domestic efforts to stimulate economic growth.

"This is an opportunity to spur, through discussions with key leaders there, strong economic global recovery," US national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said.

Recent forecasts suggest that Asian countries' economies will only expand by 1% this year, the slowest growth rate since the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98.

Terrorism debate

The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, will be joining the meeting later after crucial talks with India and Pakistan concerning their co-operation in the war against terrorists.

The US will be looking for ways of garnering support for the international coalition against terrorism.

Included in Apec are many predominantly Muslim nations, notably Indonesia, whose support for the anti-terrorist effort is circumscribed by domestic opinion.

Already plans to combat money laundering may have been watered down.

Press reports suggest that statements in the original draft declaration, calling for the introduction of financial measures to stop the flow of funds to terrorists, have been omitted from the final version.

If this week's meetings are to be called a success, the foreign ministers and leaders will have to reach consensus on the fight against terrorism and try to push forward Apec's free trade agenda in the face of a looming global recession.

The Apec members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.

See also:

17 Oct 01 | Americas
US takes anti-terror drive to Apec
15 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Apec set for summit row
09 Sep 01 | Business
Apec agrees anti-recession measures
06 Apr 01 | Business
Apec's free trade struggle
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