Asia Economy

APEC Leaders Gather in Sydney Amid Tight Security


Police tightened security Sunday as senior officials from Pacific Rim nations began meetings to prepare for a summit of regional leaders that will tackle trade and global warming.

The annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum-- with its focus on trade and a membership that includes powerhouses China, Japan and the United States--is a magnet for anti-globalization and environmental protesters.

President Bush, who arrives Tuesday, and anger at the Iraq war are also drawing protesters.

Parts of Sydney began to resemble a besieged camp, with police erecting a 10-feet-tall security fence, dubbed by local media the Great Wall of APEC near the summit site.

Authorities arrested 11 activists from environmental group Greenpeace for painting anti-APEC slogans on a coal ship in the port of Newcastle, 100 miles north of Sydney, the New South Wales state police said.

"The police will be out in force and they'll enforce the law and they'll do so with strength and authority," New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma said.

APEC, founded in 1989 to promote trade and investment in the fast-growing region, has broadened its mission over the years to include security, political, health and environmental issues.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard, the host, has said tackling climate change will be a top priority, though APEC members have been divided over previous efforts to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

On Sunday, senior officials began putting the finishing touches on a declaration that will be passed on to government ministers for revisions midweek and then endorsed by the 21 leaders at their Sept. 8-9 summit.

The officials were to first focus on the Doha round of global trade talks and ways to promote regional economic integration, David Spencer, the Australian ambassador to APEC, said opening the meeting.

Much of APEC's business, however, is not about the declaration but about giving regional leaders a chance to hobnob.

Bush is scheduled to hold a series of one-on-one meetings over subsequent days with Howard and other leaders, including Chinese President Hu Jintao, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

APEC members--which include the world's top three greenhouse gas emitters in the United States, China and Russia--are not expected to announce any specific targets to cut carbon emissions.

Instead, the leaders likely will adopt a statement calling for members to voluntarily make "measurable and verifiable contributions to meeting shared global goals," according to a draft obtained by Greenpeace and shown to The Associated Press.

While environmental groups have criticized this approach as empty, observers say any consensus reached in Sydney could help chart the course for a successor to the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, which expires in 2012.

On trade, APEC leaders are expected to issue their ritual call for the successful conclusion of the Doha talks, which have foundered amid bickering between rich and poor nations, largely over farm trade.

They also will discuss a longer-term proposal to create a Pacific-wide free-trade zone, dubbed the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, stretching from Chile to China and enveloping nearly half the world's trade.

The idea has gained momentum since it was first floated three years ago as a possible alternative to the Doha talks, but is widely seen as a long-term project that still faces serious questions.