SYDNEY (AFP) — Western countries are behind moves to keep India out of an Asia-Pacific grouping because they are concerned that its entry would tip the balance of power towards Asia, an official said Thursday.
India was among a group of nations frozen out after foreign and trade ministers of the group declined to discuss expanding the 21-member club after a 10-year moratorium on expanding membership expired this year.
"They will ask that the moratorium be extended. The proposal is three more years to 2010," said Jose Antonio Buencamino, the Philippines' chief trade negotiator.
He told reporters that while Australia has endorsed India's bid for membership of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, there was a concern that "the entry of India would alter the balance of power here."
He said certain western members, which he did not name, were not opposed to admitting smaller countries such as Panama and Colombia among a dozen or so applicants, but drew the line at India.
"Once the Indians come in, the (Asian) weighting would become heavier in this part of the world," Buencamino said.
India believes its geographical location, trade and investment interaction and the size of its economy all serve to strengthen its bid to join the forum, which was set up in 1989.
Aside from India, other potential APEC candidates include Colombia, Ecuador, Macau, Mongolia, Pakistan, Panama, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.
APEC groups Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.
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