Warily watching world markets, President Clinton and Pacific Rim leaders approved a rescue strategy Tuesday for shaken Asian economies but agreed there was no quick fix. They resolved to settle disputes over a global warming treaty in difficult negotiations next month.
After two days of talks over the Asian currency crisis, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien said, “We say to the world, we will not be discouraged, we will not turn back” from the goal of free trade in the next century.
The leaders also expanded their ranks, adding Russia, Vietnam and Peru to the 18-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group.
The leaders expressed determination to reach an agreement at a U.N.-sponsored meeting in Kyoto, Japan to cut greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming. But they failed to strike an agreement on how much pollutants each nation will be required to cut, and when.
Clinton said the financial rescue strategy for Asia addresses challenges on both sides of the Pacific. “And I say that advisedly … because Canada and the United States will not be unaffected unless we can restore confidence and growth and forward progress throughout the Asian area,” the president said. He said countries seeking international help “are doing the right thing” by pledging economic reforms.
Outside the heavily guarded campus where the leaders met, police arrested at least 15 protesters. As many as 1,000 people, most of them decrying human rights violations in Indonesia’s East Timor, confronted lines of Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Vancouver police on bicycles. Police used pepper spray as some of the most persistent protesters tried to push past security lines.
Chretien shrugged off the police tactics. “For me, pepper, I put it on my plate,” he told reporters.
The APEC meeting was dominated by discussions on economic setbacks that have effected Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Phillipines - and spread recently to South Korea and Japan.
“There are no easy solutions,” said Philippine Finance Secretary Robert De Ocampo. “This thing is pretty shocking. The measures that are needed to address it don’t make the governments in power very popular.”
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad urged stronger regulations to govern the activities of currency traders, who he has blamed for triggering the Asian crisis. But a Canadian official, who summed up the talks, said, “There was no feeling in the room it was at all feasible to curtail free market currency trading.”
“The purpose of coming here is not a short-term, 72-hour, ‘we’re going to fix the situation,”’ said Daniel Tarullo, Clinton’s international economics adviser. “A number of leaders - including those from affected countries - said, ‘You don’t fix this overnight.”’ He said APEC sent a reassuring message by demonstrating the leaders were responding “appropriately and forthrightly.”
Global warming was the primary subject as the leaders met for lunch without aides.
Leaving a lot of room for separate approaches, the leaders’ communique said, “We affirm that this issue is of vital significance, and that it requires cooperative efforts by the international community, in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.”
Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto was mounting a new initiative to help developing nations move closer to a treaty. Clinton said the leaders agreed to develop an emergency program to predict, prevent and coordinate responses to natural disasters such as the Indonesian forest fires that spread a haze over southeast Asia.
Clinton proposes to tackle global warming gradually, using tax breaks to reduce greenhouse gases followed by internationally binding pollution cuts. The goal is to stabilize carbon releases into the air at 1990 levels by 2008-2012 and then begin making slight reductions. Japan and European leaders have called for more aggressive actions.