Yokohama: Leaders of the 21-member Apec grouping will agree to refrain from introducing new trade and investment barriers until 2013, according to a draft statement.
Trade and foreign ministers from the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum, meeting ahead of a weekend summit, also pledged to extend the “standstill” on barriers first forged in 2008, Japanese officials said.
There has been widespread concern that the turbulence in currency markets is increasing the risk of protectionism, as export-dependent nations seek to shield their economies from spiralling exchange rates.
In a draft statement dated 3 November, the leaders said they “continue to resist protectionism, and agreed to extend our commitment on standstill made in 2008 to the end of 2013.”
They said they would “refrain from raising new barriers to investment or to trade in goods and services, imposing new export restrictions, or implementing World Trade Organisation inconsistent measures in all areas, including those that stimulate exports.”
A Japanese trade ministry official said many of the Apec ministers who met Wednesday “said they should extend the commitment on not taking new protectionist measures by three years” to 2013.
“It’s in effect an agreement by ministers on this point,” he told reporters.
The Japanese official said World Trade Organisation (WTO) secretary general Pascal Lamy told the meeting that 2011 would be critical in concluding the Doha round of trade talks given that many countries face elections in 2012.
The WTO said in a recent report that the “dangerous cocktail of imbalances” including trade, disorderly currency movements and “stubbornly high” unemployment must be tackled through international cooperation.
“The last few months have seen a dangerous increase in protectionist pressures generated by global imbalances at a time when the political consensus in favour of open trade and investment is already under strain,” it said.
“Higher risks for the world economy are being generated by turbulence in currency markets,” as well as by government decisions “that some may perceive as a deliberate pursuit of an exchange-rate-induced comparative advantage.”