US software giant Microsoft Corp., in trouble at home for alleged monopolistic practices, is helping to open up trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region by developing computer programs to monitor the abolition of tariff and other barriers.
Microsoft is working with the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in developing software that will help APEC's 21 member economies update their vital annual reports on the steps they are taking to meet the goal of free and open trade by 2020, regional officials say.
The Microsoft offer was contained in a report presented at a meeting, which ended in the capital of Brunei over the weekend, part of preparations for the APEC summit in November.
"This offer was positively received by member economies. Discussions were ongoing between Microsoft and the APEC Secretariat with a view to developing arrangements to cover system specifications, functional requirements and timeframe," the APEC report said.
The software development is the second phase of an APEC initiative to get its members' "individual action plans" declared transparently to each other in a standard format which will be posted on an Internet website accessible to all member governments and their business sectors.
The November summit will include US President Bill Clinton, whose administration is seeking to break up Microsoft in order to promote competition in the software industry.
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, United States and Vietnam.
"There was strong support for the prototype format which was warmly welcomed by most economies as delivering the specificity, transparency and comprehensiveness sought by ministers and leaders while at the same time significantly streamlining and simplifying the annual (individual action plan) updating process," said another report on the APEC software project.
The revised format of the action plans online "is designed to enable provision of key information required by policy makers and business in easy-to-read style and will clearly indicate progress being made" in achieving the goals of free and open trade by 2020, it added.
The new format will make the action plans "more useful to business by enabling them to better understand the trade and investment regime of a particular APEC economy," it said.
APEC has allocated 250,000 US dollars for the software development program and to provide training in the technological aspects of using the revised online action plans. Microsoft's office in Singapore, where APEC's secretariat is based, is coordinating with the group -- BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN (AFP)
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