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The BBC's Simon Ingram in Brunei
"Some hard bargaining behind the scenes yielded a compromise"
 real 56k

Thursday, 16 November, 2000, 09:42 GMT
Call for global trade round
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, and Russian President Vladimir Putin on a walkabout
Apec leaders met for two days in Brunei.
A fresh round of global trade talks should be launched in 2001, is the demand from leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum (Apec).

The organisation, which brings together 21 countries - among them the United States, China, Thailand, Japan and Indonesia - said the World Trade Organisation and its members should soon agree on a "balanced and sufficiently broad-based agenda" for talks.

However, not all Apec members do see eye-to-eye on trade liberalisation. The United States had hoped Apec would set a deadline for trade talks to start, while countries like Malaysia were against such a firm commitment.

In a statement at the end of their annual summit, Apec leaders also called for "appropriate measures" to stabilise world oil markets, and supported the entry of Russia into the World Trade Organisation. Russia is an Apec member.

Trade conflicts

However, the Apec meeting also highlighted a number of outstanding trade conflicts.

China failed to clear its last remaining hurdle to joining the World Trade Organisation when talks with Mexico, which has still not given its approval for the deal, broke down late on Wednesday.

Under WTO rules, all 138 members need to approve China's trade plans before it can join the organisation.

"We hope that the Mexican side can reach a deal with us at an early date, and won't ask for things China can't possibly offer," said China's spokesman Zhu Bangzao.

China fears that negotiations will have to restart when Mexico's new government takes power on 1 December.

Talks will now continue in Geneva, with China still hoping for early entry to the WTO in 2001.

Agenda issues

The Pacific Rim countries are also split on what items should be included in new trade talks.

In their communiqué, Apec leaders said that agreement on the agenda should precede launching any trade round.

"We believe that a balanced and sufficiently broad-based agenda that responds to the interests and concerns of all WTO members should be formulated and finalised as soon as possible," the leaders said.

And Thailand's trade minister, Supachia Panitchpakdi, who is set to become head of the World Trade Organisation in 2002, warned against setting any deadline - least the failure to meet it further undermined the credibility of the organisation.

It was disagreement over the scope of trade talks- coupled with demonstrations from environmentalists and trade unions - that scuppered the last attempt to launch a global trade round in Seattle last December.

Developing countries opposed attempts by the United States and the European Community to include issues of labour rights and environmental protection in the negotiations, fearing that these would be used to block access to Western markets for their goods.

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See also:

15 Nov 00 | Business
Trade clash at Apec summit
14 Nov 00 | Business
US pledges Apec support
10 Nov 00 | Business
Campaigners target trade in services
12 Oct 00 | Business
China tries to clear WTO hurdles
15 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Defence dominates Apec summit
15 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Domestic dramas dog Apec heads
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