The fight against terrorism emerged as the top issue at the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, whose original aim was to promote sustainable economic growth. This reflected awareness among participants at the summit — held Oct. 26-27 in Los Cabos, Mexico — that terrorism affects regional economic development.
The 9/11 attacks that targeted the economic and military power centers of the United States sent shock waves reverberating throughout the world. Last month, terrorists struck in Indonesia, the Philippines and Russia, showing that no country is safe from terrorism — the enemy of economic and social globalization.
The summit issued two statements on terrorism and another urging North Korea to abandon its nuclear-arms development. The most important accomplishment of the summit was a common perception among member nations such as Japan, the U.S., Russia and China that security was the most serious challenge to regional development. Controlling terrorism is now considered essential for economic growth. At a news conference, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi set store on the summiteers’ renewed pledge to fight terrorism together.
The battle against terrorism had been a major topic of discussion at past summits of major powers. In 1996 a number of terrorist attacks were staged by the Irish Republican Army and Palestinian militants, and there was the bombing of a U.S. military facility in Saudi Arabia and the takeover of the Japanese Embassy in Lima. The 1996 summit in Lyon, France, agreed that fighting terrorism was the top-priority issue for the international community.
The 9/11 attacks by al-Qaeda terrorists changed past ideas about terrorism, posing a challenge to the U.S. domination of the post-Cold War world. Scattered and limited terrorism was replaced by systematic, global violence without boundaries. Among the terrorist attacks last month were the bombing of a French tanker off Yemen; the bomb blast in Bali, Indonesia, which killed more than 180 people, some of them Japanese; and the hostage-taking in Moscow, in which more than 100 died.
The Los Cabos summit issued two statements on terrorism. The first concerned recent acts of terrorism in APEC member economies; it condemned “in the strongest terms” recent terrorist acts and reaffirmed that terrorism constitutes “a direct challenge to APEC’s vision of free, open and prosperous economies.” It also called for strengthened international cooperation to support the region’s efforts to “eliminate terrorism and restore economic confidence in the region.”
The second, on fighting terrorism and promoting growth, was reportedly issued at the initiative of the White House. Noting that the APEC region accounts for 60 percent of the world’s gross domestic product and half of its trade, it listed ways of securing the smooth flow of people and goods. It also urged member nations to observe international conditions for safety in marine and air transportation.
The leaders also pledged to work together to deny terrorists access to the world’s financial system and to try to enact a comprehensive set of laws relating to cybersecurity and cybercrime by October 2003, since 60 percent of the world’s Internet users live in the APEC region. APEC leaders issued a declaration promising to take a series of concrete steps to protect and make more efficient the flows of trade, finance and information.
The APEC documents are in some ways contradictory. The leaders agreed to cut trading costs in the APEC region by 5 percent by 2006, but plans to strengthen antiterror measures at airports and seaports could hinder cost-cutting efforts. There are serious doubts about whether these contradictory plans will be realized.
APEC seeks to promote sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region through liberalization and facilitation of trade and investment, as well as economic and technical cooperation.
The summit agreement that a new round of multilateral trade negotiations under the World Trade Organization should be concluded by Jan. 1, 2005, was overshadowed by discussions centering on the fight against terrorism and ways of making North Korea abandon its nuclear-arms development. The opening paragraph of the leaders’ declaration said they agreed on the “importance of fighting terrorism, which poses a profound threat to our vision.”
Economic development was thus linked to the fight against terrorism. And APEC changed from a forum of cooperation to foster economic growth to an organization for dealing with a wide range of issues, including politics and security.
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