Fish & Forestry Are Smith's Top Apec Priorities

  • Dr Lockwood Smith

Maintaining APEC's commitment to Early Voluntary Sectoral Liberalisation (EVSL), including the fisheries and forestry sectors, is Trade Minister Lockwood Smith's top priority for the APEC Ministerial starting on Saturday in Kuala Lumpur.

"I believe progressing the current liberalisation agenda is important to maintaining APEC's credibility, restoring business confidence in the region and helping us recover from the current difficulties," Dr Smith said before departing for Kuala Lumpur today.

"It would contribute significantly to one of the key objectives of the meeting: responding to the Asian Economic Crisis which has savaged a number of APEC economies and had a negative impact on New Zealand."

Dr Smith said New Zealand was seeking:

  • a reconfirmation of APEC's commitments to free and open trade and investment in the region
  • agreement amongst APEC members on a credible EVSL package, including fisheries and forestry
  • support among APEC members for an ambitious and broad-based agenda for further multilateral trade negotiations

"The EVSL package accounts for about 40% of intra-APEC trade and would therefore represent a major step towards APEC's ultimate objectives," Dr Smith said. "Considerable progress has been made developing the EVSL package but not all economies have yet agreed to participate. Hard bargaining is likely to be needed to get final agreement in Kuala Lumpur."

Dr Smith also said he expected ministers would agree to further trade facilitation initiatives designed to make business activities in the region easier, cheaper and faster.

To develop strategies for the meeting and to discuss bilateral trade issues, Dr Smith will hold meetings with US Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky, Chinese Trade & Economic Cooperation Minister Shi Guangsheng, Chilean Economy inister Jorge Leiva, Korean Trade Minister Han Duck-soo, Malaysian Trade Minister Rafidah Aziz, Singaporean Trade Minister Lee Yock Suan, Thai Commerce Minister Supachai Panitchpakdi and Vietnamese Trade Minister Truong Dinh Tuyen.

Dr Smith leaves Kuala Lumpur on Monday evening and will head to Thailand.