APEC finance ministers to discuss risks of high oil prices on a meeting

APEC finance ministers are concerned about the impact of high oil prices and will stress the need to boost production and refining capacity when they meet this week, according a draft of their joint statement.

Finance ministers or their deputies from the 21 member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum will gather on South Korea's southern Jeju Island for two days starting Thursday, ahead of APEC's annual summit meeting in November.

APEC includes heavyweight economies like the United States, Japan, China and Canada, and smaller but important ones like Indonesia, Mexico and Russia.

Representing a total population of about 2.8 billion, APEC accounts for nearly half of global trade.

"We discussed the risks of sustained high energy prices to economic growth and ongoing development in the APEC economies," said the draft, seen by The Associated Press.

It also noted the importance of "adequate investment in oil production and refining capacity, as well as technology transfer for energy conservation and developing renewable energy sources."

The meeting's stated themes are capital movements among APEC members and financial opportunities in aging societies.

But with crude prices near record highs and the impact of Hurricane Katrina unknown, oil is the key issue on everyone's mind, economists say.

"There's a risk that we're going to move into uncharted territory" if oil prices rise further and stay in a range of US$70 to US$80 a barrel, said Mike Moran, regional economist at Standard Chartered Bank in Hong Kong.

APEC's discussions will be held without the financial chiefs of the world's two largest economies Japan and the United States both busy with matters at home, reports the AP.

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