Union Tribune

October 28, 2002 

Terrorism shadows Pacific Rim summit


CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico Hurricane Kenna, a beast of a storm
that menaced this seaside resort town before veering off,
provided an apt metaphor for the terrorism that overshadowed
and preoccupied the weekend's Asia-Pacific Economic
Cooperation conference in Cabo San Lucas.

President Bush departed having forcefully made his case against
North Korea's nuclear weapons program, though he fell short of
securing the full condemnation he had sought. Instead, the 21
leaders from 20 countries and Hong Kong called on North
Korea to "visibly honor its commitment to give up nuclear
weapons programs."

Just as Kenna drew much of the attention before the summit,
North Korea, Iraq and global terrorism intruded on all aspects of
the two-day meeting, which was supposed to focus on economic
issues and trade.

The United States, Mexico and 18 other APEC nations had hoped
to hunker down in talks about cooperation toward eliminating
tariffs and trade barriers by 2010 for advanced economies and
2020 for developing economies.

But the buzz at the beachside luxury resorts was all about Bush's
efforts to enlist other leaders in his campaigns against Iraq and
North Korea. And the common understanding, apart from
debates about geopolitical strategy, was that terrorism is
looming as the biggest potential trade barrier of them all.

Mexican President Vicente Fox, the summit host, said the
leaders committed themselves to "taking a series of concrete
steps that will protect and make more efficient the flows of trade,
finance and information."

Fox added, "We condemn in the strongest terms recent terrorist
acts in the APEC region, and reaffirm our determination to
enhance cooperation in countering and responding to

The coupling of economics and terror began with the attacks
Sept. 11, 2001, in the United States and was reinforced by the
recent terrorist bombing in Bali, Indonesia.

The economic shock in the U.S. after 9/11 cast a double
whammy onto economies around the Pacific Rim. Traders
suddenly encountered not only less demand for exports but also
a chilling danger: that international commerce could be crippled
if the United States or any other country were hit by terrorists
using vehicles of trade maybe a tractor-trailer or a container
delivered by ship as weapons-delivery systems.

APEC is looking for a technological solution to the daunting
problem of the security of the millions of trade shipments that
drive the economic health of an increasingly integrated world.

"You have to have a system of inspection at the point of
shipment and sealed containers that can be followed by GPS
(global positioning satellites)," said Gary Huffbauer, a senior
economist at the International Institute for Economics.

Terrorism's worldwide reach is going to require that the United
States station inspectors in other countries, Huffbauer said,
acknowledging that such a program would pose a "sensitive
issue" of national sovereignty.

"But the U.S. is not going to be comfortable about containers
sealed in Malaysia unless it has free rein for FBI agents to come
and see what is happening in their factories," Huffbauer said.

Secretary of State Colin Powell offered a vision and a challenge
to businesses that fear they will be crippled by terrorism. The
answer, Powell said, is for business to produce enough wealth
and well-being to deny terrorism the seedbed of desperation.

"Societies that are growing, societies that are happy, tend not to
foster individuals who will be that disoriented and that
disenchanted," Powell said in an appearance in Cabo San Lucas
with Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda. "And societies
that are stable because there is trade, there is democracy
those societies will not tolerate that kind of terrorist activity
within their midst," Powell said.

In their joint declaration, the leaders tried to address more than
just terrorism. In addition to endorsing the U.S.-backed
proposal to tighten security on millions of shipping containers,
they called for the strengthening of cockpit doors on airliners
and greater cooperation on customs.

The wide-ranging statement also:

Called for the abolition of all forms of agricultural export

Endorsed a plan to streamline trade procedures and thereby
"cut transaction costs by 5 percent" in the APEC region

Cited "the importance of addressing the social dimensions of
globalization" and "the need for developing social safety nets to
minimize the costs of structural change

The selection of Cabo San Lucas as the site for the annual APEC
meeting was itself a tactical move in a world in which diplomacy,
trade and tourism are increasingly threatened by terrorism. This
month's terror bombing in Bali, for example, is expected to
wreck tourism that had become a key industry for Indonesia.

But Cabo, isolated at the tip of Baja California and accessible by
land through easily controlled transportation corridors,
presented a difficult target that the Mexican government
hardened with hundreds of soldiers dressed in civilian clothing
along with hundreds of uniformed police.