HO CHI MINH CITY, May 31 (AFP): Asia-Pacific trade ministers were due to push for speedy progress in talks to free up global trade at a meeting starting Thursday in Vietnam, the communist host nation said.
The 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum would focus on ways to revive World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks to scrap many trade barriers by the end of the year, said Vietnam's Deputy Foreign Minister Le Cong Phung.
APEC officials had prepared a draft statement that, if adopted by the ministers, would "express their political resolve for the acceleration of the Doha round" of talks launched in the Qatari capital in 2001, he said.
They would make recommendations on overcoming the deadlock to the Doha round, which aims to slash subsidies, tariffs and other trade barriers and use commerce to boost the economies of developing countries.
Vietnam is not yet a member of the Geneva-based WTO, but a market access agreement it expected to sign with the United States later Wednesday was set to move it a step closer to its decade-old goal.
The deal with its former battlefield enemy, if signed and passed by the US Congress, would mean it has concluded talks with 28 trade partners, a precondition for WTO accession.
Hanoi hopes to be a WTO member when it hosts an APEC summit in November.
The APEC forum-whose members account for two thirds of global trade-covers both sides of the Pacific Ocean, including the United States, China, Japan, Russia and Indonesia.
The group operates by consensus, meaning each member's approval is needed to reach a decision, and it only makes non-binding agreements.
But since then talks have made little progress, with Washington and Brussels accusing each other of making too few concessions, and developing nations led by Brazil and India telling both of them to make greater cuts.
Washington faces a crucial deadline. The Bush administration is set to lose its "fast-track" trading authority in July 2007, after which Congress can once again pick apart trade laws presented to it.
Meanwhile, report from New Delhi says: The United States yesterday urged "ambitious" efforts by WTO-member countries to reach agreement on removing barriers to global trading rules before a deadline runs out at the end of this year.
Deputy US Trade Representative Karan Bhatia told reporters in New Delhi a successful conclusion to the talks "requires an ambitious outlook and all countries concerned (need) to do more and to recognise that offers on the table in Geneva need to meaningfully open markets."
This would allow "the world's poor ... greater access to markets of developed and developing countries," Bhatia said.