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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Pacific Rim Club Lets Russia Join

COMBINED REPORTS


VANCOUVER, Canada -- Leaders of the 18-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum have decided to accept Russia, Peru and Vietnam as new members, but declared a 10-year moratorium on further entrants.


The announcement was made as the presidents and prime ministers wrapped up two days of meetings dominated by Asia's mounting currency troubles and plunging markets.


In a final declaration late Tuesday, the leaders backed a $78 billion emergency stabilization plan centered on the International Monetary Fund, agreeing to provide supplemental money if necessary but steering clear of firm pledges.


Admission to APEC was warmly welcomed by Moscow, which has been fighting for membership in influential international bodies such as the World Trade Organization. Russian membership will "create favorable conditions for invigorating cooperation with the Asian and Pacific countries and for implementing promising, mutually advantageous projects," Interfax quoted a Foreign Ministry official as saying.


Three days earlier, APEC Cabinet ministers had been unable to reach a consensus on whether Russia should be allowed to join and asked the leaders to decide.


The leaders said the new members would join next year.


"We have agreed on a 10-year period of consolidation, following which membership issues will be considered further," said Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, the host of the meetings. Eight other countries have applied for membership.


APEC has been reluctant to grow for fear of becoming too unwieldy. Its members, which work on the basis of consensus, have begun a process of eliminating all trade and investment barriers by the year 2010 for developed members and 2020 for poorer nations. Some believe that new members might have difficulty meeting that target and would slow others down.


"Twenty-one is enough for the moment," Chretien said.


Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said membership in APEC would encourage Russia to become more involved in Asian affairs. "Russia might add spice to discussions" and contribute to a balance of views, he said.


Philippine President Fidel Ramos said officials from the three new members will begin participating in APEC activities in January and heads of government will join the annual leaders' summit next November in Malaysia.


Several APEC ministers had opposed Russia's membership Saturday, saying if it were allowed to join APEC, Colombia should also be considered as a candidate because it is one of the three Latin American nations facing the Pacific Ocean that still has not joined.


APEC started in 1989 with 12 countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and the United States. China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Mexico, Papua New Guinea and Chile were accepted later.


In Vancouver, the leaders sought to put the best face on the paucity of concrete results at their annual summit.


U.S. President Bill Clinton said the meetings proved that APEC, created to foster better economic ties, was "for all times -- good times and more challenging ones."


Despite the Asian currency crisis, Canada's Chretien said the leaders worked hard to show that "we will not be discouraged from our goal. We will not turn back."


The final communique also stated a determination to reach agreement at the forthcoming UN-sponsored meeting in Kyoto, Japan, to cut greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.


But the APEC leaders failed to strike an agreement on how much pollution each nation will be required to cut and when, leaving that to the sessions that start next week.


On the currency crisis, the leaders endorsed an emergency stabilization plan drawn up last week by their deputy finance ministers in Manila.


The program offers the promise of additional backup bailout money from rich countries such as the United States and Japan, but only if troubled countries sign on to tough economic reform measures demanded by the IMF. While the Vancouver meeting did not come up with any additional money to support the bailout effort, which is at $78 billion and growing, the leaders emphasized that they were prepared to do more. The first candidate for supplemental financing is likely to be South Korea, which has already requested at least $20 billion from the IMF. It is expected to require much more to rescue the world's 11th biggest economy.


The APEC leaders said they would send a group of finance ministers to meetings Monday and Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the first of a series of monitoring meetings planned to demonstrate to global financial markets that the nations are determined to come up with solutions to the crisis.COMPOSING: STORY CAN END HERE IF NECESSARY


Next week's meeting will receive a preliminary report on an IMF study into the causes of the currency crisis that have humbled a number of once-strong economies in what had been for a decade the region with the highest growth rates in the world.


Mahathir of Malaysia, the host of next year's APEC summit, has been the strongest critic of international currency traders whom he blames for triggering his country's woes.


"What appears very clear is that if you do criticize the currency traders, immediately they hit back at you by lowering your currency," Mahathir said at a closing news conference.


There were other notes of discord.


Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto expressed irritation at U.S. pressure to do more to get his stalled economy moving again so that it can serve as an engine of growth for his troubled Asian neighbors.


"We are not arrogant enough to see ourselves as a power in Asia that can pull others up," Hashimoto said, while insisting that Japan will do its part in the unfolding crisis.


The leaders dressed in brown leather jackets for their daylong retreat Wednesday, carrying out an APEC tradition of dressing alike in clothing picked by the host country. Given the financial bombs that kept going off during this year's summit, the bomber jackets were entirely appropriate.