President Clinton sought to
nudge economic globalization forward Wednesday by calling for new
world trade negotiations by 2001 -- a deadline developing nations
The last effort to launch a new round of trade talks collapsed
at the disastrous World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle amid
discord between rich and poor while riots raged outside.
''The most important thing we can do is to launch a new trade
round at the WTO. It ought to happen as early as possible -- next
year,'' Clinton told business leaders meeting alongside the
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, an annual summit of
Pacific Rim nations.
The leaders of APEC's 21 economies close their two-day summit
Thursday -- the last one for Clinton, who is credited with
establishing the annual sessions intended to push for more trade on
both sides of the Pacific Rim.
Clinton urged APEC leaders to carry on without him, but drew
laughter by referring to the still-unresolved U.S. presidential
race between Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush.
''I just don't know who will be here next year,'' Clinton said.
If the next U.S. president adopts some of Clinton's stances
toward trade, insisting on environmental protection and workers'
rights in any new WTO talks, the United States could find itself in
a drawn-out fight with poor countries who say they're tired of
being pushed around by the rich traders.
Developing nations complain they don't want to harm their two
main economic advantages, exploitation of natural resources and
They made their point at the APEC summit, when Malaysia led
other poorer countries in refusing to let economic ministers agree
on a call to start new WTO talks by 2001, insisting instead that
all nations first come up with an agenda that takes into account
the concerns of poor countries.
Thailand's Trade Minister Supachai Panitchpakdi, who will become
the leader of the WTO in 2002, spoke on behalf of the developing
nations, saying there's no point in setting a deadline that might
be missed. That would heap more embarrassment on the WTO after
With the WTO issue appearing nowhere near resolution, trade
officials have noted more nations are cutting bilateral trade deals
-- a trend that could either sidetrack the move toward new WTO
discussions or facilitate them, depending which experts are
Singapore, a leader among the bilateral traders, announced
Wednesday it wants a fair trade package with Australia within the
next year. Singapore is also either negotiating or hoping to enter
into talks with Japan, Canada, Chile, Mexico and New Zealand --
Mexican negotiators have been busy at the forum trying to reach
a trade pact with China, which would help China get into the WTO,
and the United States recently signed a trade deal with Vietnam.
APEC members are: 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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