Pacific Rim leaders attending an annual summit will call for
urgent progress in stalled global trade talks, according to a draft
statement, but their officials struggled yesterday to find
consensus on another issue - climate change.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard is urging leaders at this
year's meeting of the 21-member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation
(APEC) forum to forge a new international framework on global
warming that rejects binding targets for greenhouse gas
Howard is seeking agreement on two goals - reforestation and
reducing energy intensity - a senior US official said on customary
condition of anonymity. But the Australian leader's proposal, which
is backed by the United States, has met opposition from some
developing countries, APEC diplomats said.
The Philippines, for example, dislikes the proposal in its
current form and sees debate as likely, two Southeast Asian
officials said on condition of anonymity because they are not
authorized to speak to the media.
Malaysia's Trade Minister Rafidah Aziz last week reportedly
criticized Australia and the US for not having ratified the
UN-backed Kyoto Protocol on curbing climate change that sets
Disharmony over climate change is not confined to APEC.
Australia's business capital, Sydney, is bracing for protests by
activists angry over APEC's pro-business agenda and the policies of
US President George W. Bush, who will reach Sydney today.
Nine anti-APEC activists who broke into a coal-fired power
station and chained themselves to two conveyor belts to protest
against polluting industries were arrested in the southern state of
Victoria. The plant had to reduce output and police used power
tools to cut the protesters free, officials said.
APEC includes some of the world's biggest polluters - the US and
Russia - powers that have differing views on climate change. Any
APEC consensus on tackling global warming could help shape future
negotiations over climate change, starting with a UN meeting in
December to look for a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which
expires in 2012.
"I think the APEC meeting is important because it's the first of
a manageable size that's brought together" leaders of some of the
major polluters,' Howard said on Monday.
On trade, senior APEC officials approved a draft of a statement
leaders are expected to adopt during the September 8-9 meeting that
calls for a new push for progress by the end of the year in the
current, languishing Doha round of global trade talks.
Achieving progress in the trade talks has "never been more
urgent", according to a draft of the statement obtained by the
"We pledge to push hard for the progress necessary to ensure the
Doha round negotiations enter their final phase this year," it
Trade negotiators were scheduled to meet in Geneva later last
night to begin three weeks of talks over new proposals to bridge
differences on cutting farm subsidies and industrial tariffs among
the 151 members of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
"We all realize that the stakes are high. Time is running out,"
said David Spencer, the Australian who chaired the APEC officials'
meetings on trade. "For the next few weeks, it is critical that we
make some progress in an effort to move to the final stages of
Despite APEC's endorsement, which carries the imprimatur of
economic powers China, Japan and the US, the group's influence on
the Doha talks is limited because it doesn't include key WTO
players such as the European Union, India and Brazil.
One US proposal - for a Pacific-wide free trade zone, stretching
from Chile to China - was under study by APEC members, though
officials cautioned that its creation remained a long way off.
"No one thinks that this is an initiative that will be launched
any time soon," Spencer said.
(China Daily via agencies September 4, 2007)