• Kyodo News


Pacific Rim trade ministers will assemble in Sapporo on June 5 and 6 to review their past efforts and future direction toward freer trade and investment, marking the start of a series of APEC ministerial meetings to be chaired by Japan this year, government officials said Wednesday.

They are expected to scrutinize how far the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum’s industrialized members have achieved trade and investment liberalization goals, set 16 years ago.

Under the so-called Bogor Goals, named after the Indonesian city where APEC leaders reached the nonbinding agreement in 1994, developed economies are committed to achieving free and open trade and investment by 2010, and developing economies by 2020.

Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and the United States are subject to the assessment this year, along with eight other economies that have volunteered for early assessment — Chile, Hong Kong, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore and Taiwan.

Member economies have been working toward achieving the Bogor Goals under an action plan adopted in the western Japan city of Osaka in 1995, which calls for actions in a total of 15 areas such as tariffs, investment and intellectual property rights. The goals have no specific numerical targets.

Besides assessing the past, the participants will exchange views on APEC’s future vision, which would include talks about a region-wide free trade zone and a strategy that would ensure economic growth in APEC as a whole, the officials said.

Promoting regional economic integration is one of the main areas APEC will focus its efforts on this year, with members expected to discuss “possible pathways” to the proposed Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, or FTAAP.

Japan has set 2020 as a target year to set up FTAAP, an idea originally floated by the United States, in the basic policy for its growth strategy through 2020.

It remains uncertain, however, how fast they can build a consensus, with some members, especially China, remaining cautious about the United States establishing a strong foothold in Asia.

Meanwhile, World Trade Organization Director General Pascal Lamy will be invited to the Hokkaido meeting. He will discuss with the ministers the current situation on the Doha Round of global liberalization talks and how APEC can work to make progress in the stalled negotiations.

This year is also the target year for the WTO to conclude the Doha Round, which was launched in 2001.

The Sapporo gathering will be chaired by Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Masayuki Naoshima and Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada. A meeting June 3 and 4 of APEC senior officials is planned for preparation.

This is the first time since 1995 that Japan is assuming the rotating chair of the APEC forum, which was established in 1989.

The trade ministers meeting will be followed by meetings involving other ministers, including those in charge of energy, agriculture and finance. The talks are expected to lay the groundwork for APEC leaders to issue an annual joint statement at their summit in November in Yokohama.

APEC, which accounts for half the world’s economic output and more than 40 percent of its trade value, groups Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.

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