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Sunday, 12 November, 2000, 14:44 GMT
Asia-Pacific states seek common ground
Policewoman walks past sign for the summit
Oil prices and trade will top the agenda in Brunei
Foreign and trade ministers from the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum (Apec) have been meeting in Brunei to discuss ways to bring down oil prices and to break the deadlock in global trade talks.

Ministers are reported to have agreed in principle on the need for a fresh round of trade negotiations under the World Trade Organisation (WTO), but the question of when to hold these has yet to be finalised.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah
Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah: Hosting the summit
"Many of us would really like to have some kind of decision here for a global WTO round next year," said Philippines Foreign Minister Domingo Siazon. "Of course, there are concerns that have to be met."

The ministerial meeting paves the way for a summit of the organisation's leaders on Wednesday and Thursday which will be attended by US President Bill Clinton, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori.

Trade talks

Many Apec leaders want a rapid launch of new WTO global trade talks following the collapse of the last attempt in Seattle in 1999 amid street protests and acrimony between rich and poor nations.

They can jolly well say 2001, but they are kidding themselves... How can you launch a round without an agenda?"

Malaysian Trade Minister Rafidah Aziz
However, correspondents say conditions put forward by Malaysia may present a stumbling block to other members' demands for early talks, due to Apec's consensus rule.

Malaysian Trade Minister Rafidah Aziz said that while Kuala Lumpur had no objection to a new round of trade talks, it would not give its consent until an acceptable agenda had been set.

"We are for a new round, what we are saying is that as things stand, it's unlikely a new round can be held this year or next year," she told reporters.

Social programme

Apec leaders are expected to end their summit with a declaration urging members to continue economic reforms they began but later slowed or stopped in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis in 1997-98.

The ministers' meeting will also examine social issues, with Apec announcing 300 projects designed to tackle social and environmental problems in many of its poorest member states.

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

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See also:

16 Aug 00 | Business
Brunei plans for life beyond oil
13 Jul 00 | Business
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19 Jul 00 | Business
EU, Japan call for new trade round
13 Sep 99 | The Economy
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27 Oct 00 | Europe
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