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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (September 25, 2001 - Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online)---Papua New Guinea was fortunate to have joined the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group in 1993 and not later, according to APEC executive director Ambassador Dr. Alejandro de la Pena.

Dr. de la Pena, who is in Lae for the national awareness seminar on APEC and World Trade Organization (WTO) issues, said a delay would have placed PNG in a "long-wait" situation, faced by many other Asian and Pacific countries.

Dr. de la Pena said there is a 10-year moratorium that APEC has placed on new memberships. The moratorium ends in 2007.

He made the observation yesterday in response to earlier criticisms that PNG may have joined the APEC prematurely, and it should have waited until it had developed the necessary infrastructure and manpower capacity to be able to implement the commitments and obligations of being a member.

But Dr. de la Pena said joining earlier, in 1993, has allowed PNG to be involved in the APEC planning, as well as getting technical assistance on how to meet its obligations.

He said there were many more countries that want to join APEC, but cannot with the existing moratorium on new memberships.

Presenting a paper on how APEC operates, Dr. de la Pena said because APEC operates on the principles of voluntarism, there were no yardsticks by which performance of member economies can be measured.

He said APEC worked on the basis of consensus-building and consultation, example and peer pressure, open attitude to information sharing, a strong role for business, unilateral liberalization, ensuring that people share in the benefits of growth and a bold target to create the world s largest area of free trade and investment by 2020.

"APEC is not a trade agreement; is not a common market like the European Union and it is not a binding organization like WTO or the International Monetary Fund (IMF)," he said.

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