- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Counterterrorism efforts will dominate talks when leaders from the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum start wide-ranging discussions today in Los Cabos, Mexico.
North Korean revelations about a secret nuclear-weapons program, a recent terrorist attack in Bali (and the potential for more strikes against APEC countries), and U.S. policy toward Iraq also are likely to be hot topics during APEC meetings, even if all those issues are not on the official agenda, analysts said.
APEC was founded in 1989 to promote trade and economic cooperation along the Pacific Rim, though it has become an increasingly political forum for leaders from the 21 member nations. But trade and the economy will not be completely forgotten in the coming days.
"At APEC, we have set the twin goals of enhancing security against terrorist threats, together with the continued facilitation of the movement of goods, capital and people within the region," Alejandro de la Pena, executive director of APEC's executive directorate, said in a statement.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell will lead the U.S. delegation to the ministerial meeting in Los Cabos today and tomorrow. He will shuttle back to President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, for a meeting between Mr. Bush and Chinese President Jiang Zemin Friday.
Mr. Bush and the secretary of state both plan to be in Mexico for APEC's national leaders' meeting over the weekend, according to the State Department and White House press offices.
In a briefing last week, the State Department's C. Lawrence Greenwood, the senior U.S. official for APEC, outlined U.S. priorities for the forum, including trade policies for electronicbusiness, trade facilitation, such as streamlining customs and improving port logistics, and transparency issues "things to bring down the cost of transactions."
But technical trade issues are unlikely to dominate talks at the highest levels.
"[APEC has] become a vehicle for addressing a host of security issues," said Lael Brainard, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, noting that the emphasis is no longer on APEC itself, but on meetings along the periphery of the economic summit.
U.S. officials are intent on keeping security issues in focus.
"I also don't want to make it sound like there's a difference between economics and counterterrorism, because our counterterrorism in APEC is very much economically focused," Mr. Greenwood said.
During the national leaders' session, APEC officials plan to hand out a report on counterterrorism measures that would suppress terrorist financing and enhance aviation and maritime safety, energy security, telecommunications and information protection, customs procedures, and border security, according to APEC's executive body.
"The recent terrorist bombing in Bali, the September 11 attacks and other terrorist incidents are a direct challenge to the APEC's vision of free, open and prosperous economies," Mr. de la Pena said.
Mr. Greenwood said he expects APEC leaders to deliver a statement on counterterrorism that will lead to "some real concrete outcomes."
The private sector, meanwhile, has not abandoned hope for progress on economic and trade fronts, though security also is high on its agenda. Business priorities include completion of multilateral trade negotiations, financing for small businesses, stopping terrorist financing, improving security for the movement of goods and people, and the use of technology to strengthen security.
"I expect the [APEC Business Advisory Council] dialogue with economic leaders will cover a range of issues and concerns, such as corporate governance, small- and medium-sized enterprise development and financing, and the economic effects of the fight against terrorism," Francisco Gutierrez, executive director of ABAC, the private-sector arm of the APEC forum, said in a statement.
Business advisory council leaders will meet with political leaders in Los Cabos Saturday.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide