• Kyodo

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The average applied tariff rate among member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum was reduced to 6.6 percent in 2008, compared with 16.9 percent in 1989 when the forum was launched, Foreign Press Secretary Kazuo Kodama said Friday, underscoring the region’s trade liberalization efforts.

Senior officials of the Pacific Rim economies ended a two-day parley in Sapporo to prepare for an APEC trade ministers meeting Saturday and Sunday that will partly focus on scrutinizing the achievements of members to attain the goals of free trade and investment, set 16 years ago.

“We have seen substantial tariff rate reductions in the APEC region. This may be one kind of consensus hopefully reached at . . . the trade ministers meeting,” Kodama said.

Another Japanese government official said the increasing number of bilateral and multilateral free-trade agreements in the region should also be considered as progress in the area of trade liberalization.

But the official also said the member economies are aware there are still “areas in which they should make efforts,” without elaborating.

One of APEC’s priorities throughout the year is to assess progress toward achieving the so-called 1994 Bogor Goals, which set trade and investment liberalization targets for developed members by 2010 and for less-developed members by 2020.

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

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