- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 26, 2002

LOS CABOS, Mexico Money talks, but it is having trouble being heard at this summit of Asian-Pacific countries ostensibly devoted to boosting trade and finance.

Security and the threat of terrorism, with incidents in Indonesia, the Philippines and Russia still in the headlines, have so dominated the agenda at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum that U.S. officials yesterday tried to underscore that economic reform hasn't been lost in the shuffle.

"The cost of countering terrorism does not necessarily have to be in conflict with trade facilitation," insisted C. Lawrence Greenwood Jr., the State Department's coordinator for APEC issues. "We have to take a hard look for ways to put resources behind efforts where we can get both."

Among the initiatives being highlighted at this meeting are not the usual APEC prescriptions for lowering trade barriers and boosting regional investment but measures to make sure terrorists don't use the tools of international trade to their own ends.

President Bush and other APEC leaders are expected to endorse a set of measures today designed to make the region's "economic infrastructure" the huge container ports, customs and border patrols, banks and other financial institutions better able to prevent terrorist strikes.

But with Asia's economy already shaky from the aftermath of the U.S. downturn, Japan's continuing economic woes, and regional currency shocks, many of the hundreds of business executives from APEC countries who have gathered in this Mexican coastal resort area, expressed concern that the focus on security will detract from the need for an economic boost.

"The more we focus on protecting what we already do, the less we focus on expanding," said one Asian banker privately.

Lorenzo Zambrano, head of the Mexican cement giant CEMEX and chairman of the conference of APEC chief executives, said the Mexico summit comes "at a critical moment."

"The global economy and global markets seem increasingly fragile," he said. "We are in a painfully slow and complicated transition, from recession to recovery."

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Thursday at a news conference of APEC foreign and trade ministers that the United States did not want to see the global war on terrorism, the North Korean nuclear crisis and the U.N. debate over Iraq overshadow APEC's primary economic mission.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick said that poverty does not lead directly to terrorism, but added that countries showing no signs of economic progress provide fertile soil for violent movements to operate.

"Terrorism is a blow to all our economies," Mr. Zoellick said, noting that Indonesia and the Philippines had suffered direct economic losses from terrorist strikes. "Overall, the security agenda must be complemented" by trade and development.

Mr. Greenwood said some anti-terrorism security measures have actually promoted trade, citing a "model port" effort in Shanghai that tracks suspicious contained shipments but also allows legitimate shipments to pass more quickly and efficiently.

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