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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

APEC: Ban Food Export Subsidies

AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- Pacific Rim ministers said Friday they will come up with a unified wish list for new global trade rules, while threatening a fight with Europe by demanding a worldwide ban on food export subsidies.

The subsidies allow some food producers to keep their prices artificially low, harming Third World farmers, and the 15-member European Union is "the only significant entity advocating the continuing use of such measures,'' Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum officials said.

The APEC trade ministers said they want to send Europe a "powerful message'' with a proposal to strike down "unjustifiable export prohibitions and restrictions.''

The ministers will recommend to their heads of state this weekend that the Pacific Rim economies bring a unified front to the next round of global trade talks, which the World Trade Organization will launch Nov. 30 in Seattle.

The goal of the trade pact will be to cut tariffs and free up new avenues for international commerce that can improve all economies. Typically, trade negotiators are reluctant to be first to make any concessions that hurt their own interests, but APEC now wants to make sure that all sides make concessions at the same time.

In all, APEC trade ministers want to reduce or eliminate tariffs in eight sectors of the global economy: fisheries, forestry, chemicals, gems and jewelry, medical equipment, energy, environmental goods and services, and toys.

Japan had broken up an APEC trade proposal last year amid objections that Washington was pushing too hard to open the Japanese forestry and fisheries sectors.

But Japanese Trade Minister Kaoru Yosano said he was happy with the idea of coming up with a complete package, presumably because that would force the United States to make concessions at the same time Japan does.

The ministers hope to finish the so-called "millennium round'' of WTO talks in three years.

The host trade minister, Lockwood Smith of New Zealand, called APEC's stance on agriculture "an important first step,'' but he dodged questions about how it might play out in Europe, where vocal French farmers raise a big fight any time they sense their turf is being threatened.

There was also grumbling that APEC's message was not as unified as intended because of continued bickering among some of its 21 members.

The WTO, based in Geneva, sets rules for trade among its 134 members.

The APEC ministers have long sought to bring a loud, unified voice into world trade discussions.

Their theory is that a Pacific Rim bloc could approach WTO negotiations as a powerful counterbalance to the EU, where economies have drawn increasingly closer under tighter regulations from the European bureaucracy in Brussels, Belgium, and this year's launch of a single currency.

In an issue with profound implications for global trade, Washington and Beijing agreed Thursday to restart their efforts to admit China into the World Trade Organization.

APEC heads of state meet Sunday and Monday, but President Bill Clinton and Chinese President Jiang Zemin will hold their own talks Saturday.