Summit backs Gatt deadline

David Usborne@dusborne
Wednesday 07 October 2015 14:07

SEATTLE - The leaders of the nascent Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum (Apec) ended two days of talks in Seattle last night, pledging to continue their consultation and urging a quick conclusion to the troubled world trade talks of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, writes David Usborne.

In a statement issued during a morning of closed-door talks on Blake Islands, in Puget Sound, the leaders underlined their concern that the Uruguay Round of the Gatt talksshould not be allowed to drag beyond a deadline set for the middle of next month.

'The foundation of our economic growth has been the open multi-lateral trading system. Therefore, we pledge our utmost efforts to bring the Uruguay Round to a successful conlusion by December 15,' the leaders said.

It was the first such gathering of the 15 members of the Apec group founed in 1989. They include the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and all the economies of South-east Asia.

American hopes that the Seattle talks would lead to a formalisation of Apec into a body working towards free trade in the region were frustrated by the hesitation of the some of the Asian countries. Significantly, however, the leaders agreed yesterday to approve the early convening of a finance ministers' meeting to discuss trade cooperation.

On Friday, the states promised to undertake a series of tariff reductions in the context of a Gatt agreement if one can eventually be achieved. A sub- text to all the talks in Seattle has been the desire to put pressure on the Europeans, and especially France, to remove obstacles to an agreement.

There were signs of fresh headway even this weekend during secret negotiations between the US and the European Community in Brussels. Meanwhile, tomorrow Sir Leon Brittan, the EC Trade Commissioner, is due in Washington to discuss French concerns about proposed cuts in farm supports.

Summing up the achievements of the Apec talks, Mr Clinton told reporters yesterday that the 15 were 'agreed that the Asia-Pacific region shoudl be a united one, not divided, and agreed that our economic policies should be open and not closed'.

He also indicated for the first time that the US and New Zealand are on the verge of announcing an improvement of their relations, marred over recent years over New Zealand's strong anti-nuclear stance. 'We may be announcing something shortly,' he said.

In what the Apec leaders termed ther 'Vision Statement' after the meeting, they declared: 'In this post Cold War era, we have an opportunity to build a new econimc foundation for the Asia Pacific that harnesses the energy of our divers economies, strengthens co-operaton and promotes prosperity.'

The United States already exports half as much again in value to the Asian region than to Europe.

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