APEC: Asian Countries Want Europe To Be Flexible At WTO

ASIA - Pacific rim leaders called on Europe to be more flexible during world trade negotiations, warning Friday that talks next month could be the last chance to make progress on freeing markets anytime soon.

The leaders, opening a two-day summit of the 21-member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, urged Europe to be open to compromise at December's World Trade Organization meeting in Hong Kong. Disputes, mainly over subsidies protecting European farmers, have damped hopes for the talks.

"We're basically saying that now the ball is in Europe's court," South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon told reporters in the port city of Busan.

As the leaders met, riot police sprayed rock-throwing protesters with high-powered water hoses about 1,500 feet from the summit venue. At least one person was arrested and 11 officers were injured, police said.

Some 4,000 protesters, led by farmers angry about plans to open up South Korea's rice market, joined the march. A river separated the demonstration from the summit, which wasn't interrupted.

On Saturday morning, about 300 protesters blocked an intersection in the city away from the building where leaders were meeting, surrounded by a force of some 1,000 police.

Tens of thousands of security forces were deployed against the possibility of terrorist attacks and to keep protesters away from buildings where the leaders were meeting.

The leaders, including U.S. President George W. Bush, Chinese President Hu Jintao, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Russian President Vladimir Putin, worked to revive stalled trade talks while pledging unity in combatting bird flu and terrorism.

The South Korean foreign minister said the leaders "were asking for a very active and flexible attitude in negotiations from the Europeans."

Failure at the WTO talks could mean "it would be a very long time before we have another opportunity to make progress in the negotiations," the leaders said, according to Ban. "There is a possibility that we might lose momentum in the negotiations if we don't do something at the Hong Kong meeting."

U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley told reporters the U.S., Europe and Japan should move toward lifting agricultural tariffs, barriers and some subsidies.

"There was a recognition that in order to achieve success, everybody needs to do ... their part," he said.

Still, Hadley said progress must "be matched among other countries for a commitment to move toward freer and fairer trade."

Mexican President Vicente Fox said the leaders agreed to issue a statement on the WTO talks that, while not citing Europe, would bring pressure to bear on the continent.

"Now is the turn for Europe to move," he said, singling out France and Spain.

Source: Dow Jones Newswires

calendar icon 19 November 2005
clock icon 1 minute read
© 2000 - 2024 - Global Ag Media. All Rights Reserved | No part of this site may be reproduced without permission.