Global trade talks have topped the agenda on the first day of a summit of Asia-Pacific heads of state in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi. Leaders of the Asia Pacific Economic Forum say “major players” in the group are ready to commit to deeper cuts in what they call “trade distorting farm support”. The statement, which gave no details, said the leadersvowed to cut industrial tariffs and remain “personally invovled” to ensure there’s enough flexibility for a breakthrough.
The US President George W Bush has been trying to drum up support for a free trade zone encompassing the 21 APEC members, but he was rebuffed in his bid to make the proposal a key part of this weekend’s summit. Instead, the possibility of resuming the Doha round of trade talks was overshadowed by diplomacy over North Korea.
Bush met South Korean and Japanese leaders to try and persuade them to back sanctions against Pyongyang and a US plan to intercept North korean ships carrying suspicious cargo. But Russia and China expressed their reluctance to follow a tough line.
All the countries involved in six-party talks to end North Korea’s nuclear programmes are in Hanoi except for the North itself. Washington wants to reach a consensus over how to deal with North Korea so that it can present a united front at the next round talks on its nuclear weapons programme, which are expected to take place next month.