Fri, 26 Aug 1994

APEC told not to link human rights to trade

JAKARTA (JP): Asian and Pacific businessmen made an appeal to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), yesterday, asking them not to link issues on human rights, labor and environmental problems with trade and investment access in its member countries.

The proposal was one of recommendations made during the first meeting of the Asia-Pacific Business Network (APB Net), a newly established business forum, which groups chambers of commerce and industry of APEC's 18 member countries.

Other recommendations included a proposal to maintain APEC as a loose and informal communication forum rather than as a trade grouping.

Hussein Aminuddin, the chairman of the meeting's organizing committee, said that APB Net also asked APEC members to implement free trade arrangements under the principles of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), within the existing framework.

"However, due to different stages of economies, member countries should be allowed to freely decide when they should fully enter the GATT principles," he said. He added that APEC should avoid fixing an formal time framework in the implementation of free trade and investment principles in the region.

Aminuddin, however, said that each member country should clearly state the period when it might be ready to fully implement the GATT accord.

APB Net was established a few months ago to facilitate a better regulatory environment among APEC members and for a forum for dialogs with governments on their policies. The establishment was proposed by the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) during the meeting of APEC's Working Group on Trade Promotion in Bali in March.

Aminuddin said that Kadin and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), which jointly organized the meeting, were appointed as caretakers of the organization pending the establishment of its chairmanship.


He said that Asia and Pacific businessmen also made other important proposals during the two-day meeting, both in improving a networking mechanism of the new business forum and in strengthening its lobby with APEC.

The recommendations related to economic issues would be forwarded to the meeting of APEC's senior officials in Yogyakarta in September, he said.

"We hope the senior officials' meeting will raise our proposals during the APEC Summit in Bogor in November," he added.

In a bid to further strengthen the existence of the newly established business forum, Aminuddin said, APB Net will hold a meeting in Australia early next year to discuss activities of small and medium enterprises, one of its main programs.

He said APB Net will hold its second annual meeting in Japan, which will become the next venue of the APEC Summit.

The Asia and Pacific businessmen also discussed economic potential in the environment, energy and infrastructure sectors during the two-day meeting, which was attended by 150 participants.

Speakers at the meeting, officially opened by State Minister for Investment/Chairman of the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) Sanyoto Sastrowardoyo, included the president of the Japan Foreign Trade Council, Koichiro Ejiri, the vice chairman of the China Council for Promotion of International Trade, Liu Fungu, the president of ACCI, Harold Clough, and Kadin's chairman, Aburizal Bakrie.(hen)

Editorial -- Page 4