World Trade, Bird Flu to be discussed at 2005 APEC

Sunday, November 13, 2005

APEC, the Asian Pacific Economic Conference, whose membership includes about 47 percent of global trade and 57 percent of the world's GDP plans to meet in Busan, South Korea. The meeting will include US president George W. Bush, China's Hu Jintao and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi as well as 18 other heads of Asian governments.

WTO negotiations have met much resistance on reducing farm subsidies of some of the wealthier nations. Two previous talks have failed to break the stalemate

"Support for the WTO negotiations is the No. 1 issue and the leaders will make a standalone statement on this," Choi Seok-Young, executive director of the APEC Secretariat said.

Officials have drafted a statement backing the WTO's agenda. Officials are expected to sign the statement during the conference.

Many leaders hope to end the stalemate over agricultural subsidies currently plaguing the WTO. "It's very important that they seek a breakthrough in this current deadlocked situation" South Korea's senior official and chairman of the meeting Kim Jong-hoon said.

"APEC would like to change this message of crisis into a message of hope."

"Bird flu will be one of the most important issues to be discussed because it could harm our people through illness, death and through loss of business and jobs." Choi-Young also said that leaders in Busan this week may suggest ways to end the deadlock in agriculture and to move forward on industrial goods and services.

Protesters have other plans for the conference.

Sunday, protesters peacefully demonstrated in Seoul in advance of the conference in a rally organized by Korean Confederation of Trade Unions. Organizers say thousands more will be in Busan during the meeting. Approximately 18,000 to more than 20,000 participated in Sunday's rally. Protesters wearing red headbands caring signs saying "No Bush visit" and "No APEC." Demands also included better conditions for temporary workers and better social security for all workers.

20,000 South Koreans take to the streets to protest APEC