Sat, 29 Oct 1994

Failure in free trade scheduling could be serious

JAKARTA (JP): Failure to adopt a timetable for trade liberation among Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) members during their leaders' meeting in Bogor next month would be a severe, but not lethal, setback to the forum.

Responding to questions by The Jakarta Post during a telepress conference transmitted from Washington yesterday, U.S. Assistant Trade Representative for APEC Nancy Adams said the presence of the forum does not hinge solely on the adoption of the timetable.

"I don't think it would be a devastating blow to APEC," Adams said referring to the highly debated issue of whether the economic leaders can reach a consensus for a scheduled deadline for trade liberalization.

The second APEC Economic Leaders Meeting will take place at the Bogor Presidential Palace, 60 kilometers south of here, on Nov. 15.

Adams argued that despite the significance of the timetable, it should not outweigh the overall progress achieved by the forum and the substantial accomplishments achieved so far.

"There's a tremendous amount that is already going on, in five short years this institution has more going than I imagined when it started," she said.

APEC, set up in 1989, comprises Australia, Brunei, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States.

Chile will make its entrance as the 18th member during the sixth APEC Ministerial Meeting next month.

Two important advisory groups of the forum recently released their reports calling on the APEC economic leaders to adopt a timetable for trade and investment liberalization by either 2010 or 2020.


In spite of the noteworthy support from the United States, Australia, Singapore and Indonesia, two countries, namely Malaysia and China, have exhibited apprehension at the idea.

With the Bogor meeting looming ever closer, there is increasing speculation on whether a consensus can be reached.

Despite her earlier arguments and her belief in the success of the Bogor meeting, Adams admitted that a consensus from the leaders is vital in APEC's progression.

"It will be a missed opportunity," she remarked at the possibility of no consensus.

However, Adams strongly opposed mention of the word "failure" whatever the results of the leaders meeting.

"The leaders getting together for the second time in history as APEC cannot be a failure," she insisted, adding that the value of political leadership in the Bogor meeting shouldn't be underestimated.

Adams pointed out the mere fact that the leaders are together to discuss and acknowledge the hindrances existing in the region is a victory in itself.

"APEC can function at the ministerial level, but the addition of the leaders meeting catapulted this institution," she said. (mds)