Terrorism and health high at the top in Chile's APEC agenda

An earlier initiative to advance on a free trade agreement in the Pacific was dismissed by US opposition

Top leaders from the 21 Asian Pacific Economic Forum, concluded on Sunday their two-days Summit in Santiago signing a joint declaration, in which expressed their optimistic views on free trade and good governance, as committed themselves in the fight against terrorism and the spread of infectious diseases as AIDS and SARS. According to the final declaration, free trade and the liberalization of investment, together with more security and a permanent fight against terrorists will lead to development on equal basis and a new knowledge-based society.

The final statement, read by Chilean President Ricardo Lagos praises to strengthen free trade negotiations at the Doha Round to reach to a consensus in the incoming WTO talks; to seek substantial results at the sixth WTO Ministerial Meeting; and to sponsor Vietnam and Russia efforts to join the WTO.

The final declaration also reads about the recent terrorist acts in Beslan, Russia, and in Jakarta, Indonesia. “We encouraged relevant APEC economies to take measurable steps towards the ratification and implementation of, or the commitment to ratify, all basic universal antiterrorist conventions, so as to demonstrate APEC's unmistakable resolve to collectively confront the threat of terrorism and its disastrous effects on the people and also the economies of the region. In this context, we agreed to take steps to cut off terrorists' access to the international financial system, including implementing standards and agreements on combating terrorist financing and money laundering”, reads the document.

“The main issues we discussed in the Forum were those related to security and the spread of infectious diseases as AIDS and SARS”, had said to journalists Canada's Prime Minister, Paul Martin, shortly after Asian Pacific leaders finished their first summit in Chile’s Capital Santiago. Martin, who acted as a spokesman of the APEC forum, also confirmed that no advances were made in the direction of a free trade agreement for APEC countries, as advanced earlier.

PRAVDA.Ru sources in Santiago confirmed that the idea was ruled out as the US delegation expressed its preference for bilateral contacts instead of a comprehensive deal. The idea looked very ambitious from the beginning, taking into account that inside APEC there are quite different and huge economies as the United States, Russia and China.

However, leaders said they were committed to the original intentions of the forum to reach a free trade deal among developed nations by 2010 and extend it to developing countries by 2020.

“Peace and prosperity”

At the same time, US President George W. Bush addressed a speech to the core of world’s business community, titled: “Creating peace and prosperity”. There, Bush insisted in the necessity of fighting terrorism as a way to secure safety and prosperity for the world.

“We're determined to end the state sponsorship of terror”, commented Bush and linked the terrorist threat with businesses. “By making our countries safer, these steps will also create a more secure business environment and boost confidence in our economies”. “We want to seek wider trade and broader freedom and greater security for the benefit of our partners and for the benefit of all”, remarked Bush after congratulating Chile’s Lagos for organizing the Summit.

As to Russia, Bush said the US will support its bid to join the WTO. “We will continue to assist our Asian Pacific partners in meeting their WTO obligations”, he said. “We are encouraging Russia and Vietnam in their efforts to join the WTO”. Bush also said that tensions between both former Cold War enemies “no longer exist”, as praised for a common good for both countries.

APEC's 2004 forum was the first international appearance of Bush after being reelected earlier this month. With Germany and France out, APEC was an excellent occasion for Bush to obtain support to his anti-terrorist bid. It was also a good platform to set up the guidelines of his incoming foreign policy, after the resignation of Colin Powell and the nomination of Condoleeza Rice.

As for Bush declarations, US policy in the incoming four years will also be focused on the war against terror. First of all, Washington will try to consolidate its power in Afghanistan and Iraq. Secondly, the opening of two new fronts looks imminent. They are Iran and North Korea.

Bush used his bilateral meetings with the leaders of China, Japan and Russia to secure support to his plans to drive back North Korea to the negotiations table. “Get rid of your nuclear weapons”, Bush told Pyongyang.

The same on Iran. In his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Bush asked Russia to stop providing nuclear materials to the Islamic nation. The US leader suspects Tehran is running a bellicose nuclear program, and wants the international community to join efforts to support a broad non-proliferation program.

China, the emerging shinning star

No question, the star of the week here in Santiago was the Chinese delegation. Each and every APEC member tried to make contacts with the Chinese in order to boost trade and investment. Peru’s and Canada’s leaders expressed they are “very interested” in business opportunities with the Asian giant.

No one wants to lose the race to get the products in its huge market, developing countries above all. Hu Jintao visited Argentina and Brazil prior to his arrival in Santiago. There, local governments hurried all over the week to recognize China as a market economy. Beijing got what it wanted. 

“The final goal is to improve living standards”

Expressing the point of view of Latin American leaders, Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo said that the final goal of a forum like APEC should be “the improvement of the living standards of the population and the creation of jobs for the people”. He also remarked that world’s community has to consider social issues as well as free trade.

However, poverty and social reforms were badly discussed by the members. Outside the fortresses built to protect convention centers and hotels where the leaders met, tens of thousands rallied in the streets of Santiago to rise another voice: the one which says that free trade and the US led war on terror does not bring “peace and prosperity” to the world.


Photo: Putin poses with Bush and Chile's Ricardo Lagos in a typical Andean Poncho at the closing session of APEC

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Author`s name Olga Savka