11/16/2005, 00.00
ASIA
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Trade imbalances between China and other Asian countries on APEC agenda

Annual meeting will start next Friday. US President and other heads of state and government are expected. Asian governments try to overcome old nationalist feelings and "co-ordinate" policies, including monetary and fiscal policies.

Busan (AsiaNews/Agencies) – China's rising trade surplus will be one the agenda at the meeting of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) group scheduled to start on November 18 in Busan (South Korea). In addition to Asian leaders, US President George W. Bush will be present; so will leaders from Australia, Canada and Mexico.

With China's trade surplus increasing fast, jumping 50 per cent this year, and according to committee chairman Lee Kyung-tae, some forecasting "that this very steep increase in the trade surplus will continue into next year," something will have to be done.

"If the surplus continues to grow bigger and bigger, then it will invite the concerns of the rest of the countries in the world," he said.

This will mean that most of Asian currencies, especially China's yuan, will come under mounting market pressure for appreciation because of those countries' growing current account surpluses.

"In order to mitigate the negative effects of the persistent current account imbalance on global and APEC economies, closer macroeconomic policy coordination is desired, including exchange rate arrangement and fiscal policy co-ordination," Mr Lee added.

"Also, we are faced with mounting requirements for realigning the exchange rates in the region, particularly in the United States and China."

Many analysts also see this as a good opportunity for Asian governments to co-operate and leave behind short-sighted nationalist policies.

The decision by South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon not to cancel a visit to Tokyo in October despite controversy over the visit by Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi to the Yakusuni Temple is often cited as an example of this attitude. Mr Ban had invoked the need to maintain regular relations between the two countries despite any differences they might have.

Agricultural policy will also be on the table. APEC member states want cuts to farm subsidies to unblock troubled global trade talks, putting pressure on the European Union to offer deeper concessions and open its domestic market to more Asian products.

However, EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson yesterday said the EU was not planning to make any new offer on agriculture before the December 13-18 World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial meeting in Hong Kong.

For APEC members "unless progress is made in this area, [. . .] progress in the round as a whole" is not likely to succeed. Everyone must do their part to advance the talks.

The bird flu and terrorism will also be on the table of the APEC meeting. (PB)

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