APEC Leaders For Renouncing Food Embargo As Political Weapon

By BridgeNews Asia-Pacific leaders meeting in China in October should renounce food embargoes as a political weapon in case of trade disputes arising from liberalization, the region's top businessmen said Aug. 29. The executives, playing an advisory role to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, said fears that food embargoes could be resorted to in the future were making regional economies reluctant to free-up trade in the sector. "The main item that we would like to focus on this year is foregoing the use of food embargoes in the international trade of food," said Victor Fung, who heads the trade and investment liberalization task force of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). New Zealand businessman Dryden Spring, cochairman of the task force, said there are concerns that in the event of disputes, governments would resort to using food as a political weapon. "One particular reason why countries are reluctant to free up trade in food is that they are concerned that if they become dependent on imported food, then for political reasons maybe at sometime in the future food exporting economies might impose an embargo," he said. "What we're doing in this year's report is calling upon the leaders of the APEC economies to renounce the use of food embargoes for political purposes," he said. ABAC, the private sector arm of APEC, was fine-tuning recommendations to the APEC leaders, who will meet in Shanghai in October. APEC groups 21 economies bordering the Pacific Ocean. The loose grouping is aiming for a free trade environment by 2010 for richer members and 2020 for developing members. ABAC also will focus on the need to hasten the simplification of customs procedures. It will highlight in its final report a joint project by China and the U.S. to make the Shanghai port a model in terms of easy and fast clearance of goods. "The idea is to develop a model port and customs regime in the Shanghai port with the hope that this could be used throughout other parts of the APEC economies," Fung said. Timothy Ong, another ABAC member, says a study on trade facilitation identified customs procedures as a key bottleneck because of the large volume of documents involved. Governments should post more information and services on the Internet in the spirit of transparency, he said. The APEC groups: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, the United States, and Vietnam.

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