APEC Calls For Stricter Food, Product Safety

Leaders from the 21 member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum will press Beijing to do more to ensure the safety of its exports.

SYDNEY (Kyodo) — Asia-Pacific leaders will agree ''on the need to develop a more robust approach to strengthening food and consumer product safety standards and practices in the region'' during their summit starting Saturday in Sydney, according to a draft of their declaration.
Although the draft statement does not single out China, it suggests the leaders from the 21 member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum will effectively press Beijing to do more to ensure the safety of its exports amid rising concern, especially in the United States, over the safety of Chinese-produced food and other products.
The draft mentioned little about climate change, a main topic of discussions at the summit, revealing that APEC economies were still struggling with the verbiage. The leaders are also planning to issue a statement on global warming separate from the declaration.
The three-line text says, ''We addressed the challenges of climate change, energy security and clean development,'' says the draft, a copy of which was obtained Wednesday by Kyodo News. ''Our resolve on this issue is outlined in a separate statement issued at the meeting.''
Speaking in Sydney at a joint press conference with Australian Prime Minister John Howard, U.S. President George W. Bush played down hopes that any significant agreement will be reached at the forum of 21 economies, which includes China but not India.
''If you really want to solve the global climate change issue, let's get everybody to the table. Let's make sure that countries such as China, and India, are at the table as we discuss the way forward,'' Bush said.
''Otherwise, I suspect, if they feel like nations are going to cram down the solution down their throat and not give them a voice on how to achieve a common objective they will walk. And then you can't have effective global climate change, if a nation like China is not involved,'' he said.
The APEC leaders will urge World Trade Organization members to speed up negotiations under way at the WTO headquarters in Geneva, saying, ''We are greatly concerned by the lack of progress in the Doha Round,'' according to the draft.
They will also recognize ''the ongoing economic risks associated with high and volatile energy prices'' and called for ''greater efficiency in energy use'' by APEC economies to cushion the impact of surging energy prices on regional economic growth, it says.
The leaders will agree to ''accelerate efforts'' toward the creation of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, or an APEC-wide FTA, it says.
Earlier in the day, APEC foreign and trade ministers began a two-day meeting in Sydney that will focus on ways to boost food safety in the region, counter terrorism and advance global trade liberalization talks.
The ministers are unlikely to go into the details of the issue of global warming because it will be discussed extensively during the leaders' summit, Japanese delegates said.
The ministers are planning to push for an initiative to launch an APEC-wide ''food safety cooperation forum'' aimed at harmonizing food safety regulations in China and elsewhere in the region based on global standards, according to a draft of their post-meeting statement obtained earlier by Kyodo News.
The ministers are expected to agree that the regional economy will keep posting growth in 2008, but that ''threats from terrorism, natural disasters, contamination of food supply and pandemics, such as avian influenza'' could derail such an upbeat forecast, says the draft statement.
A study commissioned by Singapore estimates that the impact on APEC economies from a disruption of trade due to a major terrorist attack on the global supply chain would come to $137 billion in lost gross domestic product and $159 billion in reduced trade, the draft shows.
On market opening talks under the WTO, the ministers will recommend that APEC leaders issue a stand-alone statement during the Sydney summit urging WTO members to enter the final phase of the Doha Round of negotiations this year, it says.
The wording indicates that the ministers want the WTO economies to agree on the outline of a deal to reduce barriers to commerce in farm products, manufacturing and services by the end of the year.
Since its launch in 2001, the Doha Round has missed deadline after deadline as major emerging nations such as Brazil and India have refused to offer new market opportunities for industrial goods exports without sharper reductions in farm support by the United States and Europe.
Representing some 60 percent of the world's GDP and half the world's trade, APEC groups Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.
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