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APEC Ministers Take Small Steps in Honolulu

THE Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) passed another milestone this past weekend, as finance ministers from the group's 17 member nations held a first-ever meeting in Honolulu and pledged to cooperate on fighting inflation and expanding trade and investment in the region. The group accounts for about one-half the world's population and economic output.

Though the two-day meeting yielded little concrete result, it is significant that the group met at all, says Richard Baker, a senior fellow at Honolulu's East-West Center.

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Mr. Baker notes that the organization includes three countries (the United States, Japan, and Canada) that are members of the prestigious Group of Seven industrial nations. But whereas the majority of G-7 members are European nations, APEC focuses on the Pacific Basin, where the US is pinning many of its economic hopes. (Other APEC members include Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, South Korea, and Thailand.) President Clinton moved to boost the importance of this fledgling organization last year by inviting APEC heads of state to Seattle.

US Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen took pains to assure his counterparts that America was not there to bully other members. Yet opening markets in sectors such as finance is a US goal. Many members are concerned by the tough line being taken by the Clinton administration in bilateral trade talks with Japan and China. Like the APEC leaders' meeting last November, the only tangible outcome of weekend's parlay was a general statement of principles, which included: battling inflation with sound budget and interest-rate policies, promoting trade, looking to the private sector for economic growth, and developing capital markets. New ways to distribute software

WHEN corporations buy and install computer software, the software itself is only about 25 percent of the total costs. Selecting, distributing, installing, and keeping track of the software makes up the lion's share.

Several companies, including Microsoft Corporation of Redmond, Wash., recently announced that they are teaming up to help firms streamline those extra costs. Using Microsoft's Hermes software, the service will allow software buyers to electronically distribute all kinds of software programs. A software manager in Cleveland will be able to install and administer graphics program on a machine in Calcutta. The Hermes ``distributed systems management'' software is not expected to be ready for several months. The other partners are Infonet Services Corporation, Corporate Software Inc., and Software Spectrum Inc.

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