Protesters call for end to APEC meets

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KYOTO — Japanese opposed to the Asia-Pacific Economic Forum meetings rallied in Kyoto on Saturday to call for ending them, saying they have done nothing more than increase the gap between the poor and the wealthy.

As the APEC finance ministers were concluding their two-day summit, nearly 100 union representatives and others met in central Kyoto to protest what they said is an APEC-supported economic and financial system based on U.S.-style capitalism that is fundamentally hostile to the rights of workers.

“The Kyoto APEC Finance Ministers’ meeting is clearly opposed to the desires of labor,” members of the anti-APEC group said in a statement released Saturday. “The APEC meetings support tax breaks for the wealthy at the expense of labor rights and social welfare services, and their policies create income disparities and widen the gap between the rich and the poor.”

In a joint ministerial statement released Saturday, the finance ministers vowed to continue to maintain open markets and fight protectionism. But APEC opponents said the kind of free-market capitalism and agreements being supported will create more socioeconomic problems than will be solved.

“Japan is talking about a free-trade agreement for the Asia-Pacific region. But for Asian laborers, realization of this goal will mean increased unemployment or the shedding of full-time employees in favor of contract workers and the lowering of wages and salaries,” the statement read.

After the meeting, opponents conducted a march through central Kyoto. Workshops and demonstrations against the APEC agenda are also planned in downtown Yokohama next weekend, when presidents and prime ministers from the 21 APEC economies will gather for a leaders’ summit.