Trade Battle

WASHINGTON, Nov 30, 2006 (AFP) – The United States and Asian economies are divided over how to implement a plan to set up an Asia-Pacific free trade area, two weeks after agreeing to study the ambitious proposal.

The Asian economies want to first establish a free trade area among themselves before considering the implementation of the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific but Washington wants them to be hooked to the plan simultaneously.

Leaders of the 21 economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum agreed at a summit in Vietnam on November 16 to commission a study of the free trade zone linking Asia and the Americas for evaluation next year.

The plan was pushed for by the United States, with President George W. Bush saying it “deserves serious consideration.”

East Asian economies are looking into setting up their own free trade zone incorporating Southeast Asia, China, Japan and South Korea and possibly even India, Australia and New Zealand.

Japan and several other East Asian nations want to launch their regional free trade area before embarking on a Asia-Pacific wide free trade agreement.

But Washington is pushing for a swift implementation of the Asia-Pacific plan, sayi