The summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum has come to a close in Santiago, Chile, with an agreement to continue working towards a free-trade area of the Pacific rim.
The final declaration from the Santiago APEC summit included initiatives to promote more free trade within the framework established by the group, to increase security and anti-terrorism efforts, and to enhance cooperation generally in the Asia-Pacific region.
The summit host, Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, read the declaration. He said the APEC leaders had instructed trade ministers to develop plans for further reducing trade barriers in the region in order to fulfill the goals established a decade ago at a summit in Indonesia.
Under that plan, the regional nations were to form a free-trade area by the year 2020, with industrialized nations in Asia and the Pacific taking the first step by lowering their trade barriers by no later than 2010.
Mr. Lagos also noted that the declaration contained measures to strengthen security in the region for such things as shipping and commercial air traffic. In regard to the latter, the APEC leaders agreed to take steps to restrict the spread of shoulder-fired missiles that could present a grave danger to aviation.
Speaking in English, the Chilean leader then thanked the participants from the 21 Asia and Pacific economies for the work they had accomplished and looked forward to next year's APEC summit in South Korea: "Next year is going to be a further step in order to make the APEC economies economies that are going to grow with equity for everybody and all our people."
The APEC leaders also pledged to work for the success of the current round of World Trade Organization talks aimed at lowering commercial barriers worldwide. A WTO summit in Cancun, Mexico last year ended in disarray over the issue of agricultural subsidies, but ministers from the 148 WTO member nations have since restored momentum to the negotiations.
The APEC leaders also voiced support for the entry of Vietnam and Russia to the world-trade body.