Apec leaders challenge Europe to drop agricultural subsidies

Busan, South Korea, Nov 20 | Updated: Nov 21 2005, 05:30am hrs
Pacific rim leaders ended their annual economic summit with an indirect challenge to European countries to help revive global free-trade negotiations by cutting their hefty farm subsidies.

The 21 members of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum also addressed the threat of a possible bird flu pandemic, pledging to be open about disclosing outbreaks, boost surveillance and build a register of experts that can advise countries on combating the disease.

The leaders, including US President George W Bush, Chinas HU Jintao, Russias Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, promised a raft of measures to fight corruption, deal with high oil prices and advance their own free trade goals.

But it was the current stalled global trade round that dominated the two-day Apec summit, just three weeks before a key world trade organisation meeting in Hong Kong.

The leaders, who clearly blamed Europe for the deadlock in remarks on the sidelines of the summit, stopped short of naming the continent in their statement on trade. Officials said it was too politically sensitive.

We urge all other WTO members, and especially those that have the largest stake in the global trading system and derive the biggest benefits therefrom, to show the flexibilities needed to move the negotiations forward, the leaders statement said.Unblocking disputes over agriculture is the key to progress, the statement said.

-AP