APEC leaders agree on world trade talks

Leaders condemn terrorism, push for cooperation to fight bird flu.

APEC leaders 298 AP (photo credit: )
APEC leaders 298 AP
(photo credit: )
Asia-Pacific leaders agreed Saturday to give a strong push to world trade talks, condemn terrorism and boost cooperation to prepare for a possible flu pandemic, according to the final draft of their statement obtained by The Associated Press. The "Busan Declaration" will be officially issued later Saturday when leaders from the 21-member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum - including US President George W. Bush, China's Hu Jintao and Russia's Vladimir Putin - end their two-day summit in this South Korean port city. The leaders were expected to issue a separate statement strongly urging progress at World Trade Organization talks scheduled next month, but they were still hashing out the precise wording at the last minute Saturday, delegation officials told AP. Ahead of the upcoming WTO meeting in Hong Kong, the leaders made clear on their first day of meetings Friday that they want the European Union to make more concessions on agriculture. Australia and Canada wanted the statement to name Europe as the main obstacle in the WTO, but other leaders objected because they didn't want to single out any country or region for criticism, officials said. "You don't have to name names, it's quite obvious who are the people" the statement will be directed at, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo told AP on Saturday. In the final draft of the broader declaration Saturday, the leaders' said they declared "firm support" for the WTO's so-called Doha round "to proceed expeditiously." The leaders also endorsed a roadmap for lifting trade barriers across the APEC member countries, including a planned reduction in trade transaction costs by 5 percent over the next five years, according to the final draft. Fears of a possible human pandemic spawned by bird flu have grown in recent days with China announcing its first human cases. Under a new initiative against bird flu, APEC countries committed to openness and information sharing, and said they would conduct a simulation exercise early next year to test regional responses in the event of an outbreak. APEC's bird flu plan "commits our economies to effective surveillance, transparency and openness, and close domestic, regional and international coordination and collaboration," the final draft says. Condemning terrorism, the leaders said in the statement they would seek to dismantle terrorist groups and counter threats from weapons of mass destruction. They also launched an initiative to protect intellectual property, seeking to stem counterfeit goods and software piracy, and said they would find ways to offset the effects of high oil prices. The leaders assembled Saturday in a newly built muffin-shaped villa on the South Korean coast, named "Nurimaru" house - a new Korean word meaning "pinnacle of the world." There, they will participate in the APEC tradition of donning traditional costumes from the host nation for an official photo: durumagi, or Korean silk overcoats in a rainbow of pastel colors. Heavy security surrounds the villa, including naval cordons and helicopters, to protect against the threat of attack and keep demonstrations far away. On Saturday morning, about 1,000 anti-APEC protesters blocked an intersection in the city away from the villa. They were surrounded by police, but the event remained peaceful. As the leaders met Friday, rock-throwing protesters clashed with riot police who sprayed them with high-powered water hoses within sight of the summit venue but separated by a river, leaving the meeting undisturbed.