We met here in Darwin, Australia, to discuss the key multilateral and regional trade policy issues we face collectively as APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade. Our reference point was the shared goal of economic prosperity and social improvement through economic cooperation and strengthened regional integration, aiming to address the needs of the global economy in the 21st century.
We re-affirmed the importance of trade expansion to making possible the sustainable economic growth and development needed to improve people's lives. We called for an early launch of a new WTO round to maintain and enhance the momentum of trade liberalisation, and agreed on ways to build confidence to that end. We examined the interrelationships between the unilateral, sub-regional and multilateral trade frameworks through which we are implementing the commitment APEC Economic Leaders made in Bogor to free and open trade and investment. We also reviewed the progress and results of APEC work programs to date, and requested Senior Officials to further report to Ministers and Leaders in November.
A decade of progress
It is no coincidence that APEC economies have achieved some of the world's most rapidly rising standards of living. They have prospered because they have become more integrated into the world economy through more open trade and investment. The economic growth this brings is vital to the alleviation and eradication of poverty. It also means that business can more confidently take up new opportunities and government can look forward to a growing revenue base. It offers expanding employment and the ability to address the pressing social concerns of those who may be disadvantaged by economic change.
APEC is playing a fundamental role in creating these dynamic outcomes through wide ranging cooperation, particularly in developing sound policy frameworks and building the capacity to support their implementation.
The recent economic crisis has highlighted the need to consolidate and continue the policies of openness and structural change to meet the challenges ahead and build robust economies capable of withstanding unforeseen risks. This will be increasingly important as the pace of globalisation and structural change bring new concerns among parts of our communities, especially where the benefits are not shared equally.
We acknowledge the need to respond to this challenge. We need to do more to explain how stronger integration into the world economy will deliver economic and social progress. With this in mind, we welcome the interim report "APEC - a decade of progress" prepared for this meeting. We agree that it be made available for interim use pending its further development as a report for Ministers and Leaders in November.
Prosperity and the multilateral trading system
The economic prosperity and social development we seek for our economies will flow in part from the increased openness which broad-based multilateral negotiations in the WTO can help deliver. Therefore, we remain firmly committed to the pursuit of multilateral trade liberalisation and to strengthening and improving the rules-based global trading system for the benefit of all economies. We recognised the need to increase our efforts to broaden community support for these objectives.
We reaffirm our strong commitment to the early launch of a new round of multilateral trade negotiations and to work to achieve our collective objectives with respect to the WTO as articulated by our Leaders and Ministers in Auckland last year. We call for renewed efforts to build the global consensus necessary for the launch of a round at the earliest opportunity. In this respect, we appreciated the presence of the WTO Director General, Mike Moore, and his valuable input into our deliberations. We agreed that building confidence in multilateral trade negotiations is a key to the launch of a new round, and decided on steps to develop the capacity of APEC developing economies to implement WTO agreements and to prepare for a new round.
We welcome the commencement in Geneva of the mandated negotiations on agriculture and services. Recalling the relevant objectives agreed by Leaders in Auckland, we encouraged meaningful progress in these areas. This would have a positive effect on multilateral negotiations.
We agreed that a new round will require a balanced agenda that is sufficiently broad-based to respond to the interests of all WTO members. Particular attention should be given to the development needs of developing and least-developed economies.
We also agreed that a successful launch, conduct and expeditious conclusion to a round will require political will and flexibility from all participants, adequate preparatory work and enhanced capacity building.
We commend the confidence-building measures agreed recently in Geneva, including those on market access for least-developed economies and those addressing concerns over aspects of the implementation of WTO agreements. We urge their expeditious and effective implementation, and the participation of more APEC member economies in the LDC market access initiative
In order to increase momentum toward the launch of a round, we reaffirm our commitment to the APEC Leaders? Declaration and Ministers' Statement in Auckland last year, and also announce the following elements.
First, we now announce a new strategic plan to build capacity to implement WTO agreements, enhancing benefits from WTO membership. The strategic plan aims to provide tailor-made packages of technical assistance for developing APEC economies that will facilitate their ability to implement WTO agreements. We ask Senior Officials to coordinate a survey of the needs of APEC developing economies, to analyse and evaluate existing international cooperation schemes, and to develop a plan for the improved coordination and effectiveness of capacity-building activities. The results of this work will be reported to Ministers in November. In addition, we applaud the valuable capacity building work already done in APEC to aid implementation of the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights and endorse the Joint Statement at Annex C.
Second, recalling our Leaders' and Ministers' agreement in Auckland, we call for preparatory work on industrial tariffs and other related areas to begin in the WTO, as part of the preparation for the new round, without prejudice to the overall agenda for negotiations.
Third, responding to the needs of the globalised economy, and recognising the dramatic increase in e-commerce in the new economy, we announce today an APEC-wide moratorium on the imposition of customs duties on electronic transmissions until the next WTO Ministerial Conference. We encourage others to do likewise. We also call for the continuation of the e-commerce work program with better horizontal coordination among relevant bodies in the WTO.
Fourth, to aid mutual understanding of the issues and share experiences with investment and competition policies, APEC will hold seminars on these issues and build on its existing analytical work on competition and investment issues, with results also to be reported to Ministers in November.
We also welcome the substantial progress that has been made over the past year in the WTO accession negotiations for China and urge WTO members to work intensively for the rapid completion of negotiations so that China can join as soon as possible. We also support rapid accession to the WTO by Chinese Taipei and the advancement of the accession processes for Russia and Vietnam.
Recent developments in sub-regional trade agreements
APEC economies are pursuing free and open trade and investment through unilateral, regional and multilateral actions to reduce barriers and to enhance relevant aspects of their domestic policy frameworks.
We discussed sub-regional trade agreements and their relationship with WTO and APEC policy frameworks. We agreed that sub-regional trading arrangements should be consistent with WTO rules. We believe that they should be in line with APEC architecture and supportive of APEC goals and principles.
We welcome the proposal to embark on a survey of existing sub-regional trade agreements and bilateral investment treaties, and ask Senior Officials to develop it further.
Improving the APEC business environment
We reviewed the progress and results of the well-developed body of work undertaken in APEC to improve the environment for doing business in the region. We agreed on the need to make better known the achievements of APEC cooperation.
We launch today "APEC: Getting Results for Business" - a new publication - and BizApec.com - a new website providing one-stop information for conducting business in the Asia-Pacific region.
We also foreshadow that these resources for business will be strengthened further with the completion by November of a new web-based reporting format for Individual Action Plans. This new format will facilitate wider, faster and easier on-line access to transparent, comprehensive and specific accounts of the progress our economies are making towards our shared Bogor goals.
We value the advice of our business communities to improve our efforts in areas where APEC work can be most beneficial. As articulated by our Leaders in Auckland, we reaffirm that further dialogue with the private sector, at all levels, is essential to maintain the dynamism and relevance of APEC. The solid progress made in improving Individual Action Plans responds to the ABAC call that such reporting be done better. Our initiative on the Strengthening of Economic Legal Infrastructure, which will make a contribution to a more certain and predictable business environment in the region.
We therefore valued the briefing we received here in Darwin from the ABAC Chair. We also welcome the progress reported on senior level public-private sector collaboration in the Automotive Dialogue, and encourage our governments to study their recommendations. We ask Senior Officials to ensure that other APEC specialist fora work closely with the Automotive Dialogue.
We also agreed to improve on the results for business already achieved in many APEC economies through reduced administrative costs and easier ways of doing business with government using electronic commerce. Many challenges remain in creating a transparent and consistent legal and regulatory environment, and technology neutral and interoperable electronic systems. We ask our Senior Officials to consider steps towards placing government information services on-line including, as appropriate, government procurement and trade administration services, and to report on these issues to Ministers and Leaders in November. We welcome the offer by China to host a high-level Symposium on Paperless Trading in 2001.
Recent results from the APEC framework
Our efforts as Ministers Responsible for Trade are complemented by the results achieved in other areas of the APEC framework.
We recognise that the skills and education of our people are critical to achieving our goals. In this respect, we welcome the commitment of APEC Education Ministers at their recent meeting in Singapore to continue their support for efforts to promote collaborative action in education, particularly to develop learning societies.
We also welcome the priority given by Brunei Darussalam to developing human resources in the theme for APEC 2000, and encourage their initiative to work with APEC officials in HRD and representatives of business, training and education to develop a more focused operational approach to HRD which will be relevant to the growing needs of our communities.
We welcome the pro-competitive and market based approach taken by APEC Ministers Responsible for Telecommunications and Information Industries in adopting, in the Cancun Declaration, APEC Principles on International Charging Arrangements for Internet Services; APEC Principles of Interconnection; and Issues for Consideration in the Preparation of Electronic Authentication Policies. This progress towards a more open and competitive environment will give a significant boost to trade in telecommunications and IT services.
We note and welcome the commitment by APEC Energy Ministers at the fourth Energy Ministers Meeting to focus on implementation of energy policy, regulatory reform, and technology cooperation initiatives. These initiatives include principles and best practices for independent power producers, natural gas development, and industry-initiated principles setting out criteria for reform of the energy sector in the APEC region, while strengthening policy dialogue among member economies on issues such as energy security, energy infrastructure, energy market reform, energy efficiency and energy and the environment. We further welcome the innovative strategy adopted by Energy Ministers to facilitate implementation of these initiatives through visits by teams of experts to provide practical advice, and we encourage APEC economies to make use of this valuable assistance.
We also welcome the good progress made in work by the Transportation Working Group, including in the study of the benefits and difficulties of implementing the eight recommendations for more competitive air services and identification of additional means of liberalising air services. We encourage all economies to participate fully in the study, as a resource on which economies can draw in considering the pace and direction of changes they wish to make in the regulation of their international air services.
We also welcome the Agricultural Technical Cooperation Experts Group (ATCEG) report on the work already done in APEC in the area of agricultural biotechnology, and endorse the useful work program developed for the year 2000 and the medium term. We reaffirm the statement by Ministers in Auckland on the importance of transparent and science-based approaches to the introduction and use of biotechnology products, and of technical cooperation, exchanging of information on new technology and capacity building in this area. Such activity should take into account WTO rules, as well as consumers? interest in food safety, environmental quality, and facilitate the realisation of the potential benefits of this technology.
Ministers from Australia; Brunei Darussalam; Canada; Chile; the People's Republic of China; Hong Kong, China; Indonesia; Japan; the Republic of Korea; Malaysia; Mexico; New Zealand; Papua New Guinea; Peru; the Republic of the Philippines; Russia; Singapore; Chinese Taipei; Thailand; the United States of America; and Viet Nam participated in the meeting. The APEC Secretariat was present. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretariat, the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC) and the South Pacific Forum attended as observers.