from the Associated Press




The Trilateral Commission, long an exclusive club of influential citizens from the world’s most powerful nations, is reaching out to other countries to help find ways to foster democracy and economic freedom.

While leading figures from nonmember countries like China, Korea, Russia and Ukraine cannot become members of the commission, which meets annually to discuss the future of the world, they sat at the table for this year’s meetings in Washington, which ended Monday.

"We have taken steps importantly to extend the range of the discussion ... to people outside the traditional trilateral areas,’’ said former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, leader of the U.S. contingent in one of the world’s most prestigious gatherings. The commission, founded 26 years ago by banker David Rockefeller, includes more than 300 mostly private citizens from the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan.

Volcker, at a closing news conference that attracted only a handful of journalists, said three days of discussions that involved about half the council’s membership reached no conclusions. Sessions are closed to news coverage, although security is not tight and some media figures belong to the commission.

Membership includes academics and industrial and former political leaders. Current members of national governments are excluded.

"The Trilateral Commission doesn’t make any recommendations on anything,’’ Volcker said - particularly not on reform of exchange rates or the world financial system, which were among topics briefly discussed at the meeting.

Otto Graf Lambsdorff, European chairman and former German Bundestag member, said China was the focus of much discussion, again with no consensus reached. He said, however, that no one opposed cooperation with China and no one said China should not respect human rights.

Volcker said the participation of representatives from several nonmember countries enhanced the discussions and will continue at future annual sessions, held alternatively in the United States, Japan and Europe.

"You have the opportunity of changing thinking,’’ said Volcker, assessing the value of the meetings. "I would hope that there is some kind of changing in thinking, a convergence of thought, because people are affected by the discussions, but it’s not directed deliberately towards a particular end, other than the fostering of democracy and economic development around the world.’’

The Japanese commission chairman, Yotaro Kobayashi, head of Fuji Xerox Co., Ltd., said, "Having more participants from outside ... has only enriched the course of the discussions.’’