APEC fails to agree on details in battle against climate change

November 15, 2009 5:39 pm 

SINGAPORE, Nov. 15 — Pacific Rim leaders pledged Sunday to accelerate efforts to deepen the integration of their economies, including a study to create a free-trade area, but fell short of promising any detailed commitment to the battle against climate change.

The 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, which accounts for more than half of global economic output, closed their two-day summit in Singapore.

The leaders resolved to develop a comprehensive strategy to ensure sustainable and "inclusive" growth for the region.

They also renewed the pledge to reject protectionism in international trade, which is on the rise after the global economic crisis, and underlined their concerns over the stalled Doha Round of free trade talks under the World Trade Organization.

The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to promoting free and open trade and investment in the region. They will "continue to explore building blocks towards a possible Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific in the future" though recognizing "the challenges of establishing such an agreement," said their joint declaration.

Climate change was high on the agenda at the summit, which came before a key U.N. climate change conference next month in Copenhagen. But the leaders' declaration fell short of details, suggesting differences between some members.

The leaders "reaffirm our commitment to tackle the threat of climate change and work towards an ambitious outcome in Copenhagen," it said.

A draft of the declaration obtained by Kyodo News earlier mentioned their target of cutting global carbon emissions to "50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050."

In a modified version of the draft, however, those specific figures were dropped, saying only that the emissions must be reduced "substantially," before even that word was deleted from the agreed statement.

There were some countries which urged changes in the statement at the very last stage," a conference source said Saturday, without specifying the countries.

On the global economic condition, the Asia-Pacific leaders said that "our robust policy responses have helped to set the stage for recovery'' but added that the "recovery is not yet on a solid footing."

The Asia-Pacific leaders agreed on the need for more unified measures to stimulate economic growth in the area after the global crisis, calling for developing a "new growth paradigm."

APEC will draw a "comprehensive long-term growth strategy" next year, effectively tasking Japan with drafting the framework of the strategy as it will host next years' APEC meetings.

Singapore, this year's chair, has said economic growth after the global recession must be more sustainable and "inclusive" with both developed and developing members and all segments of societies benefiting from regional economic integration.

In 2010, APEC will handle the job of identifying the problems to be addressed with priority, including assistance for small companies, improvement of social safety nets and the offer of job training to the poor.

As for international trade, the leaders renewed their resolve in the declaration to "firmly reject all forms of protectionism," or the measures to excessively protect domestic industries.

Also next year, the more developed members of APEC are supposed to achieve their goals of trade and investment liberalization, set 16 years earlier.

Given the Bogor goals, named after the Indonesian city where APEC leaders reached the agreement in 1994, Japan will lead a review of the forum's work in the past for its goals of trade and investment liberalization.

The goals, implemented under the Osaka Action Plan charted at the 1995 APEC summit in the Japanese city, also set liberalization targets for less developed members for 2020.

"We strongly reaffirm that the most effective means of dealing with protectionist pressures and delivering a global stimulus package to sustain and secure our recovery is an ambitious and balanced conclusion to the Doha Development Agenda in 2010," the leaders also said.

They urged WTO members to turn their "high-level political commitment" to the eight-year-old negotiations into "substantive progress."

The Doha talks, launched in 2001 in the Qatari capital with the aim of helping growth in poor countries by enhancing trade, were originally scheduled to be concluded in 2005.

The stagnation was due mainly to differences between developed and developing members over how much to cut farm subsidies and industrial and agricultural tariffs.

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.

From Japan, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama attended the summit, which was also joined by U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev among others. (PNA/Kyodo) RMA/rsm

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