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Staff writerJapan, the United States and 19 other members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum have agreed in principle to institute paperless trading by 2010, government sources said Thursday.The agreement will be finalized at the 10th annual meeting of APEC foreign and trade ministers and the sixth informal summit of top APEC leaders, both of which are to be held in Malaysia mid next month, they said.To achieve paperless trading within the Pacific Rim by 2010, APEC’s member states will increase the use of e-mail for a wide range of trade-related affairs — from placing orders for goods and services to settling accounts — and will promote electronic commerce on the Internet.The idea of pursuing paperless trade was originally put forward by Australia and has been given a basic thumbs-up by the other APEC members, the sources said.It is believed the move would help facilitate the flow of goods and services in the Asia-Pacific region by saving both exporters and importers much of the time and energy now spent on various trade-related affairs.Under the basic working-level agreement, industrialized APEC members, such as Japan and the U.S., will make trade among themselves paperless by 2005 — five years earlier than the target year for full implementation of the plan, the sources said.APEC, inaugurated in 1989, is now made up of 21 economies at different levels of development. Russia, Vietnam and Peru will participate in this year’s APEC gatherings for the first time as new members.The agreement on paperless trade will be nonbinding, just as all other agreements made by APEC members.

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