US signals opposition to APEC membership expansion

WASHINGTON, Aug 16, 2007 (AFP) – The United States on Thursday signalled opposition to any immediate expansion of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, ahead of upcoming summit talks on the sensitive issue. “Our view right now is that we would like to focus on deepening reform within APEC before we look at expanding membership at this time,” Patricia Haslach, US senior official for APEC, told reporters.

APEC leaders, including US President George W. Bush, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, are expected to discuss the membership issue among wide ranging topics at the forum’s summit in Sydney on September 7-9.

Haslach noted that about a dozen countries were in the queue for membership of APEC, the only forum that covers both sides of the Pacific Ocean. She did not name them.

Russia, Peru and Vietnam were the last to be included in APEC in 1997 before its leaders slammed the door for a decade on others in the membership queue.

Potential candidates include failed applicants from 1997 — India, Colombia, Ecuador, Macao, Mongolia, Pakistan, Panama and Sri Lanka — as well as Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) states