It seems that the APEC Ministerial meeting in Hanoi has not supported the proposal championed by President Bush plus Fred Bergsten and the APEC ‘business advisory’ committee for a region-wide Free Trade Agreement of The Pacific. The APEC press release suggests, in the usual diplomatic code, that the idea was “thumped”.
Delegates had a lively discussion on the idea of a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) as a long-term prospect and agreed to instruct senior officials to conduct study on this matterHere’s another report of the debate via Reuters
The US proposal sparked robust debate that ended with the chairman deciding the idea of a free trade area encompassing all 21 members should be studied “as a long-term objective”, Japan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Mitsuo Sakaba told reporters.
But he added that the US initiative to link Apec’s economies – which account for nearly half of world trade and generate 70% of global economic growth – was appreciated. “We (the Japanese) welcomed the US proposal for the FTA because we had the impression that the US was losing interest in the Asia-Pacific. The proposal demonstrates its willingness to resume the Apec process,” he said.
Apec business leaders had earlier supported the idea, saying it would have consolidated mini-pacts that have proliferated in recent years, adding costs and complexity to doing business in the region. At least 50 FTAs have been agreed or are under discussion among countries represented at Apec.