24 Nov 2008

Key declares APEC meeting a success

10:02 pm on 24 November 2008

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has declared the APEC summit in Peru a success, rejecting claims it was just a "talk-fest" with no concrete measures announced to avert a global financial downturn

Leaders of 21 economies represented at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Lima pledged to take all necessary economic and financial measures to resolve the crisis.

The final communique at the end of the weekend summit called for a "prompt, ambitious and balanced conclusion" to the Doha round of global trade liberalisation talks, which have been stalled since July.

Mr Key said the biggest achievement at APEC was the commitment for trade ministers to travel to Geneva before Christmas to try and break the deadlock.

He says the commitment also by governments to continue spending to stimulate their own economies amid the financial crisis, even if it might mean running temporary budget deficits, was a positive outcome.

"If you look at the US, for instance, in George Bush's words they put $2 trillion on the table here - that is a lot of money to try and get this thing resolved. The Chinese alone are putting up $600 billion dollars in a stimulus package, so I don't think we should underestimate just how big a commitment these governments are making."

In an unusual move, a separate statement on the global economy released on Saturday was modified in the middle of the night to voice more optimism.

"We are convinced that we can overcome this crisis in a period of 18 months," said the added words.

Delegates said the stronger wording came at the urging of Peruvian President Alan Garcia, the host of the summit.

However, Mr Key said that proclamation was more an aspirational goal rather than one that realistically could be achieved.

Treasury Secretary John Whitehead says the mood at APEC was very positive for New Zealand trade and a successful trade round at Doha would be worth billions to this country.

The leaders also instructed officials to further examine prospects for a regional free-trade zone, called the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific.

New Zealand International Business Forum executive director Steven Jacobi, who attended the APEC meeting told Morning Report on Monday the leaders have to put the declaration into action.

"This will not be the only APEC meeting ever to have issued a clarion call for greater trade liberalisation for example, but what's really important is what happens over the next few months."

Mr Jacobi, who also heads the New Zealand-United States Council, expects the incoming administration in the US to continue endorsing free trade.

Former World Trade Organisation director-general Mike Moore says action is now needed. He told Morning Report there will be no progress on the Doha round of trade talks unless countries change their negotiating positions.

Trade round critical

Earlier, Mr Key said movement on the stalled world trade talks could provide a boost of up to $1 billion to New Zealand's economy.

"I reiterated very strongly that I believe that we've got to follow through on the communiques that we issue, that it was critically important that Doha was completed, and I've got to say I thought that was pretty well received."

Before the declaration was released, he said he would wait to see the final form of the document before commenting on whether the leaders had gone far enough in tackling the global financial crisis.

He dismissed suggestions that APEC could not influence the world order, pointing out that its economies represent more than half of the world economy.

Earlier statement

In a statement at the mid-point of the meeting, the leaders pledged to reach an outline agreement on the Doha round of trade talks by next month and agreed not to increase trade barriers in the next 12 months.

The leaders said they were confident that a breakthrough in the stalled trade talks could be reached in that time, based on progress made so far.

They welcomed plans outlined at the earlier Group of 20 meeting to overhaul financial regulation which they said needed to be more effective in order to keep pace with the developing complexity of the global financial system.

The statement is non-binding and largely echoed conclusions from the G20 meeting.

The leaders also supported overhauls of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank at a time when more countries need emergency bailouts to avert devastating economic turmoil.

The APEC summit included leaders of New Zealand, the United States, Russia, Japan and China.