APEC BUSINESS GROUP URGES QUICK TRADE LIBERALIZATION PROPERTY RIGHTS, TARIFF CUTS SOUGHT

APEC BUSINESS GROUP URGES QUICK TRADE LIBERALIZATION PROPERTY RIGHTS, TARIFF CUTS SOUGHT

Business leaders from the Asia-Pacific region meeting here called for accelerated tariff reductions as well as specific measures to enhance private investment in the world's most dynamic economic region.

The Pacific Business Forum, a group of 36 business leaders from the 18 nations that comprise the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, will present their recommendations later this month to Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, current chairman of APEC.The APEC group will meet in November in Osaka, Japan, for its annual summit on Asia-Pacific economic issues. The Pacific Business Forum members meeting in Newport Beach expressed confidence that APEC will accept their recommendations and the time lines they suggested for implementing the measures.

"We were asked as business people to tell the leaders of APEC what needs to be done to improve business," said Les McCraw, chairman and chief executive of Fluor Corp. and a co-chairman of the Pacific Business Forum. "We were asked, 'What gets in the way of trade?' "

The Pacific Business Forum was established by APEC to act as private-sector consultants to the larger organization. The group is comprised of 36 members, one representative of big business and one representative of small to medium- sized enterprises in each of the 18 nations of APEC.

The 36 members met over the weekend in Newport Beach and held a press conference Saturday at the end of the two-day meeting. It is the second APEC- related group to call for accelerated tariff reductions in the region.

The so-called Eminent Persons Group, which has no connection with the Pacific Business Forum, last week issued a call for similar measures. Its proposals also will be considered at the APEC summit in Osaka.

However, in addition to calling for tariff reductions that should occur sooner than those officially adopted by the World Trade Organization, the Pacific Business Forum agreed on a series of short- and long-term steps the APEC nations can take to enhance private sector investment in the region.

"Money and goods and services will flow to that region where it is easy for the money to flow to," Mr. McCraw said.

Drawing upon the international experiences of Fluor Corp., an engineering and construction company with $8 billion in annual revenue, Mr. McCraw said, ''We have seen that where comfort is assured, money will flow."

In that respect, the business executives suggested specific trade liberalization measures with specific time lines. For example, they called for increased cooperation to safeguard intellectual property rights by the year 2000. They also seek more liberal investment regulations in APEC's industrialized members by the year 2000 and by 2005 for the developing nations.

Other proposals include visa-free business travel throughout the region by 1999, simplified procedures for obtaining business residency visas by 1996 and a range of policies to promote development of small and medium-sized enterprises by 1998.

TASK FORCES SUGGESTED

Recognizing the importance of infrastructure development, the business leaders suggested establishment of a task force to identify infrastructure requirements in the region. Minoru Murofushi, president and chief executive of Itochu Corp. in Japan, said more than $1 trillion will be spent on infrastructure development in the Asia-Pacific region by the end of the decade.

Tommy Koh of Singapore, executive secretary of the Pacific Business Forum, said such a massive amount of capital can only be generated through a cooperative effort by the public and private sectors. Therefore, the nations of the region must analyze their investment laws and make necessary changes to encourage private-sector participation, he said.

The key to the Pacific Business Forum recommendations is their mix of short, medium and long-term measures to enhance trade and investment in the Asia- Pacific region.

''We stress short-term results in trade and investment liberalization, but we are also looking at medium and long-term improvement of economic cooperation so we can help fill in the gaps in economic development among our member nations," Mr. Murofushi said.