Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US and Asia Eye Free Trade Pact with Deadline Clinton at the APEC Summit in Indonesia Will Push for More Open Trade at a Fast Pace - but Perhaps with the Gradual Touch of Asian Diplomacy

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US and Asia Eye Free Trade Pact with Deadline Clinton at the APEC Summit in Indonesia Will Push for More Open Trade at a Fast Pace - but Perhaps with the Gradual Touch of Asian Diplomacy

Article excerpt

PRESIDENT Clinton, as he heads to Asia for a multilateral summit, will probably be very glad to get out of the United States for a few days.

But his party's defeat in Tuesday's midterm elections may help him get what he wants from the Asian leaders he will meet next week. In navigating the sensitive waters of Asian diplomacy, humility can only help.

Mr. Clinton will participate in a Nov. 15 summit of leaders of 18 countries in the Asia-Pacific region at an Indonesian resort town called Bogor near the capital, Jakarta. He will urge them to accept a program of market liberalization, which could make it the most open area for trade and investment in the world.

The occasion is the annual meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. APEC includes nations on both sides of the Pacific. More divides these countries than water, however; there are vast differences in culture, political systems, and levels of economic development. A timetable for openness

The group was formed as a loose, consultative body in 1989 and had its first summit meeting last year in Seattle. Now the US is backing a plan by an APEC advisory group to implement a free-trade timetable that would require the countries to eliminate tariffs, ease rules on foreign investment, and harmonize standards by 2020, or even sooner.

This is the sort of "just-do-it" US approach that traditionally irritates many Asians. The key word in this part of the world in matters of multilateral diplomacy is "gradual."

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamed, for example, boycotted last year's summit to oppose what he called US domination of APEC. Mr. Mahathir continues to push for a grouping of East Asian nations that would exclude the US, Australia, and New Zealand, all members of APEC.

But there are several reasons why the APEC leaders may go along with the proposed free-trade timetable.

One is that the US seems less aggressive than it did last year. Clinton's decision to eliminate the link between human rights and US trade with China was applauded by many Asians. And Asians watched with satisfaction as the US climbed down from its tough, "results-oriented" rhetoric in dealing with Japan.

Although there is bound to be controversy, some key Asian countries have supported the idea of a deadline. "I think we can support {the timetable}," said a senior official of Japan's Foreign Ministry in an interview. "We should be a little bold on that point."

"If {the summit at} Bogor results in promises" to further open markets, he added, "that we have heard many times before. The very new point is to have a firm deadline by which you have to have trade liberalization."

Indonesia's President Suharto, the host of the summit, is said to favor the plan. Mr. Suharto is influential because his country is the largest member of a group that is the core of APEC, the Association of South East Asian Nations. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.