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India will have to wait for APEC membership PDF Print E-mail

© Neena Bhandari, Indo Asian News Service

Sydney, Sep 9 (IANS) If India was hoping to join the influential group of 21 countries that make the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member economies, it will not be happening any time soon.

Despite the 10-year moratorium on bringing new members to the fold expiring, India and at least 12 other countries ranging from Latin and Central American nations to Cambodia, Mongolia and Pakistan and Sri Lanka will not be included in the APEC forum for at least three years.

"We agreed to revisit the issue of membership in 2010," Australian Prime Minister John Howard, the host of APEC 2007, announced at the conclusion of the leaders summit here Sunday.

While no reason was given for extending the moratorium on new membership, Howard said: "Leaders also endorsed a number of measures to strengthen and professionalise APEC as an institution."

Australia has backed India's entry, but according to media reports some unnamed Western countries were concerned that it would tip the balance of power in the organisation towards Asia.

"Once the Indians come in, the weighting would become heavier in this part of the world," the Philippines' chief trade negotiator Jose Antonio Buencamino told reporters.

APEC economies now account for more than half of global GDP and nearly half of world trade and represent nearly three billion people living in 21 countries.

The rising economic power and influence of India in the region figured in trilateral talks between the US, Australia and Japan Saturday as they discussed ways to engage New Delhi more closely.

Discussion about India dominated the breakfast meeting of US President George W. Bush, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Howard ahead of the day's APEC leaders meeting Saturday.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told reporters: "There was a lot of discussion about India, a lot of optimism about India, the importance of strengthening our relations with India.

"There's a recognition now that India is a coming great power. It's the world's largest democracy, its economy is growing at a rapid rate ... and it's a country that we're all feeling increasingly comfortable working with."

He added: "It was an opportunity to talk about a range of different issues but certainly to focus on India and the importance of that country to us in the Asia-Pacific region and broader geopolitics of the region."

Earlier, Downer had told IANS, "It is certainly my private view that APEC will benefit from India being a member, but from our discussions over the last three months, there has certainly not been any emerging consensus for expanding the membership of APEC."

Downer said, "One of the reasons for that is I think there are 11 applicants for APEC membership, India is one...It's quite a long list and I think there is a consensus that if you were to bring one in, you'd have to bring others to balance it up."

Echoing the minister's view was the editorial in Tuesday's Sydney Morning Herald: "APEC is a unique forum, in that it includes the major East Asian and North American economies. And if the leaders in Sydney have any sense, it will quickly recruit the other emerging global economic pole, India, now that the 10-year moratorium on new members is expiring."

The 21 APEC members, referred to as 'Member Economies', are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.



 
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