Japan likely to balance trade and security at APEC meeting

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When the leaders of the 21 member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum gather this week in Mexico, Japan will call for balancing antiterrorism action with promotion of regional trade, according to government officials.

The recent nightclub bombing on Indonesia’s resort island of Bali is certain to put antiterrorism cooperation high on the agenda again at the annual APEC meeting. The Shanghai conference last year came in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

APEC leaders are expected to agree on more specific antiterrorism measures to avoid hindering regional trade this time around, the officials said on condition of anonymity. The Shanghai gathering ended only with a general agreement on cooperation.

Ministerial discussions will be held Wednesday and Thursday at the Los Cabos sea resort, with the top APEC leaders’ meetings slated for Saturday and Sunday.

Japan will announce a “capacity-building project,” which is designed to help developing countries nurture professionals in such areas as customs, immigration, trade management, police and legal sectors, according to one of the government officials.

“Immigration or customs officers need to have the ability to judge which people or goods are low risk (for terrorism) and which are high risk so that they can move smoothly,” the official said.

As security measures for international transactions have been strengthened since 9/11, effective measures to promote trade are increasingly being urged.

Under the planned program, to be carried out in fiscal 2003, about 250 people from developing economies will be invited to Japan to receive relevant training, the official said.

Since the forum’s inception in 1989, APEC members have been studying methods for sustainable development. In the 1994 meeting in Bogor, Indonesia, they adopted goals to achieve free and open markets by 2010 for industrialized members and by 2020 for developing economies.

Last year, APEC members agreed on a target of reducing trade-related transaction costs within the region by 5 percent by 2006. They are now expected to adopt a menu of trade-facilitation measures to achieve the target. Each member economy will decide after 2003 which programs to take on, the officials said.

The measures will include the “container security initiative,” in which trading partners will mutually dispatch customs officials to help identify dangerous cargo containers.

To help boost trade and investment, especially in developing countries, Japan will call for enhanced protection of intellectual property rights. Specifically, it will propose setting up at least one service center for intellectual rights in each economy, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry.

The service center would accept complaints about counterfeit products and provide legal information.

On trade liberalization, Japan hopes to deliver a strong message toward promoting negotiations at the World Trade Organization’s new round and to propose exchanging information on free-trade agreements among member economies, the government officials said.

The 21 APEC economies are 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, United States and Vietnam.