Asia-Pacific Business Leaders Call for End to Deadlock on World Trade

Cabinet members from across the Asia-Pacific region are looking for ways to re-start stalled world trade negotiations. The ministers started their meetings in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, on Wednesday, in preparation for a summit of leaders of 21 economies on Saturday and Sunday. The business leaders' meeting is part of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. They are also calling for a break in the world trade impasse.

Business leaders from the vast region stretching from Chile to the United States and China to Indonesia have been producing advice for their governments on how to make global trade freer.

For businesses in poorer economies, such as that of Peru, securing new markets for exports is an opportunity to lift millions out of poverty.

Juan Raffo, the chairman of a Peruvian textiles group that is trying to find new markets in Asia, says that before, his factories were limited to selling to a market of 28 million people. Today, thanks to exports, they are selling to the United States and to Asian countries such as China and Japan. He says the market for his products has now grown to hundreds of millions of consumers.

That, he says, has meant higher demand and more sales, which adds up to more jobs at his factories.

The Peruvian businessman says he believes there is opportunity for him to sell more in Asia, even to formidable textile producers such as Vietnam.

He says his textiles are of higher quality and of different types than those that China and Vietnam are selling to Peru. He calls it a complementary trade relationship.

Raffo and other business leaders are pushing for faster action by governments on resolving the world trade dispute. Talks have been stalled for months, mainly over agricultural subsidies and tariffs that the U.S. and the European Union have in place.

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab on Wednesday told reporters at the APEC forum that reviving world trade talks is a top trading priority for all APEC members, including the United States.

There are hopes that APEC leaders will make concessions and thus set an example for non-APEC economies to follow so the impasse can be resolved.

In a draft of the meeting's final statement made available here Wednesday, the leaders vow to "move beyond" their current commitments in "key areas."

The negotiations' ultimate goal is to bring down tariffs and other trade barriers in the hope of increasing commerce, especially between rich and poor nations.

Among the plans under discussion here is one to create a free-trade area that spans the Pacific Ocean. With global trade talks at a standstill, however, APEC leaders are looking at that plan as a long-term possibility, and are instead focusing, for now, on negotiating scores of individual free trade agreements.