At our Meeting, we had a wide-ranging and interactive exchange of views on the WTO and how to put the Doha Development Round back on track. As a region of free traders, we reaffirmed our strong commitment to the multilateral trading system, and the importance of continuing the work done at Cancun, building on the draft text by Chairman Derbez as of 13 September 2003. We agreed to press for an ambitious and balanced outcome to the Doha Development Round, including by instructing APEC Ministers and negotiators in Geneva to maintain regular informal consultations to find common ground on issues under negotiation.
We noted the importance of agriculture issues. On the Singapore issues, APEC is already contributing through its work on trade facilitation, which is part of the APEC agenda. We affirmed that development should be an important aspect of the Round, and noted that differences in the levels of development should not be ignored. We urged political will and flexibility on the part of all concerned to bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion.
We noted that continued lack of progress in the DDA might increase the trend towards bilateral and regional free trade agreements (FTAs). We emphasized that FTAs must complement and enhance the multilateral trading system, and not divide the global economy into numerous trading blocs. We noted that economies that are ready to liberalize their economies can do so and should also help others in moving forward, for example, by trilateralizing bilateral FTAs, coordinating among various FTAs and working towards APEC-wide free trade. We recognized that intra-APEC FTAs could contribute to the achievement of the Bogor Goals, provided that they be WTO-consistent.
We stressed that capacity building is essential to promoting trade, enhancing competitiveness and reducing poverty. APEC must continue with human and institutional capacity building and make sure that such efforts yield results. APEC should also promote more investment among members.
We discussed the five recommendations of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). We considered them important and deserving of our serious consideration. We stressed the importance of partnership between governments and the business sector. Governments have the duty to provide infrastructure and remove obstacles to allow business and people to benefit from economic activities. Governments should make serious efforts to enhance transparency and fight corruption and work with the business sector to promote good corporate governance.
We shared extensive views and experiences on harnessing the power of ICT to empower the people in accordance with the Brunei goals. We noted that while investment in the strengthening of physical infrastructure is important, the most crucial aspect of ICT development is human capacity building. We shared the view that a three-way partnership between government, business and academia is vital in developing both infrastructure and human capacity. We shared experiences on using ICT for everyday life, including e-government, telemedicine, distance learning, and education in general. While IT is generally positive, we noted the need also to address the challenges related to IT, including the digital divide, and abuse of the Internet by terrorists and criminals. We shared experiences in cooperation on IT education, such as exchange programs, and welcomed the idea of an APEC digital development opportunity center.
On structural reform, we shared experiences on our efforts in domestic structural reform, which can be painful but is necessary and beneficial in the long term. We acknowledged the need for efficient regulatory bodies and good corporate governance in maintaining sound financial health. We noted the need for reform of the international financial regime.
On counter-terrorism, we reaffirmed APEC’s resolve in fighting terrorism and noted the need to address both the symptoms and the root causes of terrorism, as this is a problem that undermines trade and investment which are APEC’s main objectives. We agreed to intensify cooperation on counter-terrorism on various fronts, which are reflected in our Leaders’ Declaration.
We continued our discussion on Counter-Terrorism, and discussed the situation on the Korean Peninsula and APEC Reform during the working lunch.
On APEC Reform, we stressed the need for APEC to be more efficient and responsive to all its stakeholders. We therefore instructed Ministers to explore the issue and report on progress by the time we meet in Chile in 2004.
We welcomed Chile’s presentation on its preparations for APEC 2004 and welcomed Peru’s offer to host APEC 2008.