21 Nations Agree to Policies for Safeguarding Shipping

Cooperation on tracking and inspecting containers, plus controlling shoulder-fire anti-aircraft missiles agreed upon by foreign and trade ministers


Foreign and trade ministers from the United States and other Pacific Rim countries agreed Thursday on anti-terrorism measures to make air travel and cargo shipping safer.

The measures include testing an automated alert system that warns of potential terrorists traveling on airlines. In addition, in 2008 member countries will start issuing travel documents that are harder to falsify.

Ministers who were gathered for the 21-nation Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Chile also announced that they had established guidelines for controlling Man Portable Air Defense Systems -- shoulder-fired anti-aircraft weapons that security officials fear could be used against civilian aircraft.

The ministers pledged to cooperate more closely on inspecting and tracking cargo containers.

The United States pushed its Asian and Pacific allies, many of them grappling with homegrown Islamic terrorist movements, to tighten controls over the shipping containers used in international trade and to improve passport controls to strengthen airport security.

Because heads of state grumbled last year that terrorism concerns overshadowed trade issues at the APEC meeting in Thailand, their foreign and trade ministers tackled those matters this year in Santiago before the weekend summit.

A senior State Department official said on condition of anonymity that many Asian presidents are eager to discuss the upcoming global trade talks, not U.S. terrorism concerns, when they meet with President Bush and other APEC leaders Saturday and Sunday.

Many APEC members think U.S. security measures are beginning to damage international trade.

Asked about those concerns, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said Thursday that trade and anti-terrorism measures are deeply linked.

"If you don't have fundamental security, it's going to be hard to have an active trading system. Look at the shock of the events of Sept. 11 on trade," Zoellick said. "So we have to get the security right."

Tighter trade security has a secondary benefit of clamping down on trade in counterfeit goods, he said.

Correspondent Warren P. Strobel contributed to this report .