APEC Back On Track With Free Trade Agreement

President Bill Clinton and the leaders of 20 other Asia-Pacific economies have reaffirmed their commitment to the goal of free trade throughout the region by 2020. Meeting Sept. 12 and 13 in Auckland, New Zealand, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit was overshadowed by the diplomatic and humanitarian crisis in East Timor, a former Portuguese colony occupied by Indonesia in 1976. But the leaders put APEC back on track toward the elimination of trade barriers among economically advanced developed nations in the region by 2010 and its developing countries by 2020. They also called on their finance ministers to draw up a set of banking standards that could help prevent a recurrence of the financial crisis that rocked Asia last year. On the sidelines, the Auckland venue provided Clinton with an opportunity for his first face-to-face meeting with Chinese President Jiang Zemin since the accidental bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade earlier this year. Clinton promised his support for Chinese membership of the World Trade Organization, a bid that also won the backing of the APEC leaders.

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