- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 17, 2001

Chile seeks free trade
Chilean President Ricardo Lagos met President Bush yesterday to press the case for a free-trade zone in the Western Hemisphere.
He also discussed plans for the Summit of the Americas, to be held Friday and Saturday in Quebec City.
Mr. Lagos, in a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce before his meeting with Mr. Bush, called on the United States to demonstrate its commitment to free trade by concluding a pact with Chile.
"For the U.S., it will be an important signal that the U.S. is really committed to free trade, not only in theory but in practice," he said. "You have to demonstrate that when you talk about free trade, you mean business."
"If it is not possible to have a free trade agreement with Chile with an open country fiscal discipline, sound economic policies, the degree of transparency that we have, the rule of law, low tariff in the case of Chile, an open economy like the one that we have then I think its going to be very difficult to explain to the rest of the countries that you are really committed to have free trade," Mr. Lagos said.
He said his country has demonstrated its desire for free trade by concluding pacts with Canada and most Latin American countries. Chile is also negotiating trade agreements with the European Union.
Mr. Lagos said his country has reduced its import tariffs to 8 percent from 11 percent. He hopes to cut them to 6 percent on most products by 2003.
"This open economy represents the only way to have the kind of development 50 million people who live in Chile a small market and decided to be in the world economy," he said.


Malaysia 'safe

Malaysia is upset with a State Department warning to Americans to avoid traveling to resort islands off the eastern state of Sabah because of terrorist threats.
Tourism Minister Abdul Kadir Sheik Fazdir yesterday said he plans to meet with U.S. Ambassador Lynn Pascoe to explain that the islands of Sipadan and Pandanan are safe for tourists.
"Ill also invite him to visit Sabah to see for himself the situation here, with all expenses paid by the Malaysian government," he told reporters in the Sabah state capital, Kota Kinabalu.
"Actually, Sabah is a safe destination for tourists."
Defense Minister Najib Razak has also complained about the warning issued April 9.
"There is no truth to it. The islands off Sabah are secure. We have placed a lot of security personnel on these islands," he said.
The State Department warned that Americans "should be aware of the persistence of threats" from the Abu Sayyaf terrorists, who are based in the nearby Philippines. They kidnapped foreign and Malaysian tourists last year in raids on the resort islands.
"The Abu Sayyaf terrorist group continues to have a presence in the southern Philippines and remains a security threat to areas of Malaysia close to that part of the Philippines," the department said.
The warning said, "There is a concern that the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group may take additional action against U.S. citizens and other foreigners."
Mr. Razak said he has ordered additional troops to the islands to ensure the safety of visitors.
He also said the number of tourists visiting Sabah and its nearby islands has increased since the kidnappings last year.


'Smart sanctions

The United States is taking steps toward imposing "smart sanctions" on Iraq by sending a senior diplomat to the Middle East this week to discuss new methods to control Saddam Hussein.
Edward Walker, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, will visit Jordan, Syria and Turkey to discuss plans to ease restrictions on civilian goods but tighten Iraqs ability to use its oil revenues to purchase military items.
"The primary discussions will be on Iraq, pushing forward towards a system that removes Saddam Husseins ability to use sanctions as a weapon against his own people and would establish controls on strictly military items and items related to weapons of mass destruction," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.
Secretary of State Colin Powell outlined the concept of the so-called "smart sanctions" on a visit to Jordan and Syria in February.

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