Pacific Rim leaders pledged Sunday to shore up global security and push ahead with the World Trade Organization’s negotiations on lowering global trade barriers.
The 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum endorsed new security measures to fight terror while issuing strong support for WTO talks aimed at liberalizing trade.
They pledged to “continue our work with a renewed sense of urgency, in order to achieve a balanced, overall outcome that will meet the high levels of ambition set for these negotiations.”
The 148-nation WTO talks in Mexico last year collapsed in a dispute over reducing subsidies offered by rich countries to their farmers. But the negotiations resumed in July, and endorsement by APEC leaders to keep the momentum going is seen as important because APEC economies represent nearly half the planet’s trade.
“A year ago we left Cancun with a complete failure,” Chilean President Ricardo Lagos said. “And now, in great part owing to the efforts here, we have been able to move forward and we are looking to the future with optimism.”
President Bush also endorsed APEC’s efforts, saying: “We’ve got to reject the blocks and barriers that divide economies and people. And I believe, with the right policies, we can continue to grow.”
The APEC leaders also approved a wide variety of counterterrorism measures aimed at improving commercial flight safety and making sure shipping and food stocks are safe from attacks by terrorists.
“We reaffirmed our determination to advance the prosperity and sustainable growth of our economies and the complementary mission of ensuring the security of our people,” the leaders’ statement said.
The declaration also said member economies would take steps to implement standards and agreements on combating terrorist financing and money laundering.
The leaders promised support for the early entry for APEC member nations Russia and Vietnam into the WTO, urging a prompt conclusion to negotiations.
The declaration also vowed renewed efforts to fight public and private sector corruption, which it termed “a serious threat to good governance and deters investment.”
APEC started in 1989 as a gathering to boost trade among Pacific Rim nations, but its focus has broadened to include security matters in recent years.
While some have criticized the shift away from purely economic issues, several APEC leaders pointed out that business and security have become inseparable because of increased terrorism around the globe.
The document specifically recalled the “heinous acts” of terror this year in Beslan, Russia, where nearly 340 people — many of them children — died in a school siege, and Jakarta, Indonesia, where the Australian Embassy was bombed, killing nine people and wounding more than 170.
The statement noted last year’s work on security issues in Bangkok, Thailand, while reiterating resolve to “collectively confront the threat of terrorism and its disastrous effects on the people and also the economies of the region.”
Bush, meeting with Mexican President Vicente Fox on the sidelines of the summit, renewed support for changes to U.S. immigration law to allow undocumented laborers to work legally in the United States.
Bush stopped short of publicly pledging to push for enacting the nearly year-old proposal, but Fox appeared satisfied.
“What I got, and very firmly, is his will, his will to attend this issue,” Fox told CNN.
Bush spent much of the time on the sidelines of summit trying to win international support to push North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to halt the communist country’s nuclear weapons program. Six-nation talks on the issue have been unsuccessful so far, and the United States is pushing for another round early next year.
An elaborate state dinner planned for Bush and 200 others Sunday night was canceled after Chile reportedly balked at security measures sought by the U.S. Secret Service, including a demand that all guests pass through metal detectors.
The disagreement led Bush and Chilean President Ricardo Lagos to instead hold a small “social dinner” with a handful of aides from each side.
Meanwhile, protests, many of them violent, marred the days leading up to the summit. But a small demonstration Saturday in downtown Santiago ended without incident.
Protesters say the push to expand free trade is little more than a ploy by rich nations and multinational corporations to boost profits and does not give meaningful benefits to poor nations mired in misery.
A World Bank study estimates that a successful conclusion to the current round of WTO trade talks would help some 140 million people escape poverty while adding $50 billion to the global economy by 2015.
The talks launched in Doha, Qatar, in 2001 were supposed to be wrapped up by Dec. 31. Everybody acknowledges that the deadline will be missed.