PM Goh and Keating to make Apec meet a success

SINGAPORE and Australia have expressed fresh support for the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) forum, with both countries determined to make the group’s meeting in Osaka, Japan, a success.

Referring to discussions on Apec with Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong yesterday, Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating said they had agreed it was important “to actually give tangible expression to some of the elements of the Bogor Declaration”.

At Bogor, Indonesia, last year, Apec leaders agreed to eliminate barriers to trade and investment in the region by the year 2020.

They agreed that the developed economies, such as the United States and Australia, should achieve free trade by 2010 and the developing countries by 2020.

Mr Keating stressed yesterday that “it is now important for Apec to keep the momentum going”.

The Apec grouping comprises Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hongkong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan and the United States.

Responding to a question, he said the forum’s 18 members should not be too worried about whether Apec should be preferential or based on the most-favoured-nation (MFN) trading-status approach.

Under MFN, free trade benefits would be available to all nations. The preferential approach would extend the benefits only to other Apec nations.

Mr Keating had suggested last year that the leaders’ meeting in Japan would decide the issue.

Apec leaders are due to meet in Osaka this November to consider an action plan to implement their broad free-trade objectives.

He said yesterday: “I think the key thing is for the organisation to get on and make Osaka a success. That ranks more critically than whether it is MFN or preferential.”

Mr Keating was also asked about his visit to the Kranji War Memorial yesterday morning to pay his respects to the Australians who died in fighting during World War II.

He said: “I am perpetually mindful of the commitment of Australian men and women to the defence of Australia and to the defence of democratic values and states such as Singapore during the Second World War.

“It is important that we remember and be seen to remember.

“And it is important that the relatives of those who were lost here know that it was not in vain and that they are not forgotten.”

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