Apec leaders set for tough trade talks

Busan, South Korea, Nov 13 | Updated: Nov 14 2005, 05:30am hrs
Weighed down by gridlocked trade talks and targeted by anti-globalisation protests, Asia-Pacific leaders meet this week to address pressing issues such as the economy, bird flu and terrorism. US president George W Bush and Chinese president Hu Jintao will be among the leaders taking part in the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (Apec) summit, being held this year in the South Korean Port of Busan. Apecs free-trade agenda has been overshadowed since the September 11 attacks by security and terrorism, but problems preceding Decembers World Trade Organisation talks in Hong Kong will dominate this weeks meetings. The WTO is probably the highest priority for Apec, said a US official.

A bitter dispute over agriculture subsidies in rich countries has brought warnings that the December 13-18 Hong Kong meeting could fail, a scenario that Apec leaders will try to head off in talks on Friday and Saturday.

The leaders are set to issue a statement calling on all nations involved in the talks to make concessions to ensure the round of negotiations launched in the Qatari capital Doha in 2001 do not collapse.

We are looking at a very powerful statement, South Koreas Apec ambassador Kim Jong-Hoon said on Sunday. He said the exact wording was still being debated.

-AFP