2008 APEC Senior Officials Meeting begins in Lima

Hundreds of delegates from 21 countries met in Lima today as part of the first Senior Officials Meeting, SOM I, which initiates meetings for the 2008 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum.

The president of APEC’s High Level Commission and Peru’s first vice president, Luis Giampietri, said the 1,200 delegates will meet in Lima’s Chamber of Commerce, and the Swissotel and Los Delfines hotels to discuss the APEC Forum’s upcoming meetings in Peru later this year. Delegates will talk about the creation of an Asia-Pacific free trade agreement, corruption, finance, security and climate change, among others topics.

However, Vice-Chancellor Gonzalo Gutiérrez reportedly said the most important themes at the SOM I are related to regional trade. “The point is how to create free trade in the region. Do we need to negotiate a different accord or merge the agreements that already exist between different countries?” Agencia Andina reported Gutiérrez saying. The delegates will meet in Lima until March 3.

APEC meetings are scheduled in 10 Peruvian cities from now until November, when the 2008 forum concludes after the “Leaders Week” in Lima.

However, recent instability in Cusco over a tourism development law caused Giampietri to warn regional and municipal authorities that APEC meetings scheduled in the former Inca capital will be relocated if they did not resolve the issue by Tuesday.

Regional authorities in Cusco announced a general strike to protest the legislation, which they contend will sell out Peru’s cultural patrimony to international conglomerates. Labor unions have threatened to block access to the city’s airport and Machu Picchu, the ancient citadel of the Inca Empire and the country’s top tourist attraction

“It’s worrisome what is happening in Cusco,” daily Peru. 21 reported Giampietri saying. “Imagine if they take the Airport. Imagine the day before the summit there is violence … Who wants to go to Cusco with that kind of instability?”

However according to Radio Programas radio, Giampietri confirmed that Cusco will remain a venue during the 2008 APEC Forum today, after regional and municipal authorities confirmed their support for the summit.

“We must allow Cusco to be a venue for one of the most important meetings in our contemporary history,” he said. “It is a city with an impressive level of foreign tourism where you’ll find one of the Wonders of the World: the Machu Picchu citadel.”

Cusco’s first APEC meeting is scheduled for Apr. 5 – 7 followed by a Tourism Ministerial Meeting planned in the city from Apr. 9 – 11. In total, Cusco will host 12 APEC meetings.

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