APEC ready to give peer pressure a try

Koizumi to inform Pacific Rim nations of Japan's efforts to clean up banks

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum is expected to agree later this month to address structural reforms in each member economy, including Japan’s efforts to solve its bad-loan problem by fiscal 2004, government sources said Monday.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will propose the plan and is expected to get approval from fellow leaders at the two-day APEC summit slated to begin Oct. 26 in the Mexican seaside resort of Los Cabos, the sources said.

The proposal is intended to facilitate the exchange of views and deepen discussion on structural reforms within the 21 economies to prevent regional financial crises like the one that hit Asia in the late 1990s, they said.

While the forum, dating to 1989, is primarily aimed at liberalizing trade and promoting investment in the Asia-Pacific region, it has widened its scope to include structural issues since its failure to deal with the 1997-1998 Asian crisis.

The Pacific Rim leaders are expected to incorporate Koizumi’s initiative in a joint statement, telling the Economic Committee, a standing panel under senior officials, to take up such topics as nonperforming loans and financial market reforms, the sources said.

They will also likely commission other standing groups to examine corporate compliance with laws and rules in the wake of accounting scandals at major U.S. firms as well as other specific reform themes, including deregulation and labor markets, the sources said.

The panels, some of which may include private-sector experts, are expected to compile reports in about a year. APEC senior officials will then submit finalized reports to the leaders, they said.

In the informal summit, Koizumi plans to explain specific measures under his policy of disposing of nonperforming loans by March 31, 2005, they said.

U.S. President George W. Bush and South Korean President Kim Dae Jung are expected to share their countries’ experiences and compare notes with Japan and other countries with similar problems, they said.

The annual summit, the 10th of its kind, will follow a series of meetings by senior officials and Cabinet ministers beginning Oct. 21.

APEC groups Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.