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Asia-Pacific Leaders to Call for World Trade Negotiations

Leaders of 21 Asia-Pacific economies plan to call for a fresh start to world trade negotiations, which have been stalled in disputes largely over agricultural subsidies and barriers. Preparations for a summit are under way in Hanoi.

Officials of the 21 economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group gathered for a second day of discussions, before meetings by ministers and business leaders through the week. These will culminate in a summit of heads of state and government on Saturday and Sunday.

Vietnamese Vice Foreign Minister Le Cong Phung reported that officials believe summit leaders will issue a joint statement calling for a resumption of stalled world-trade negotiations. The Vietnamese minister said the statement will call for compromise.

Vice Minister Phung said the meeting will be the last chance to save the Doha Development Agenda, a plan at the World Trade Organization that aims to lift less developed nations out of poverty through increasing trade with more developed countries.

The deadlock centers on a dispute between the United States and the European Union on eliminating agricultural subsidies and other barriers.

Some analysts doubt APEC's push to revive the talks will succeed. Leaders will work toward consensus, and the statement they plan to issue will include recommendations, but none of the agreements reached by APEC members are binding.

APEC leaders last year made similar calls to prod world trade negotiators into agreement, without notable effects. Analysts are not hopeful that this year's push will yield different results. But they say it is significant that leaders of 21 economies, which account for roughly half of world trade, are meeting.

On the agenda are discussions on creating a free-trade zone across the Pacific Ocean, cutting bureaucracy, dealing with pandemics like bird flu, and human security - including anti-terrorism efforts.

North Korea's October 9 nuclear test is not on the formal agenda. But organizers expect the matter to come up on the sidelines as the leaders of the United States, China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea - five of the six nations that are part of the North Korean nuclear disarmament talks - will attend the APEC meeting.