Asia Pacific trade ministers Friday said they were unable to agree on the terms of an initiative pushed by the United States to boost trade in clean energy and other environmentally friendly technologies.
“We advanced work to promote liberalization in trade and investment in environmental goods and services, and submitted the issue to APEC Leaders’ to consider how best to take this work forward,” the trade ministers said in a joint statement after a day of talks.
The United States is pushing the 21 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum to agree on a plan to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming by capping tariffs on environmental goods at 5 percent.
It also wants members to pledge to reduce regulatory and other non-tariff barriers that thwart trade in the sector.
“Ministers had robust discussions and made progress today. But given the importance of the issue and its relevance to confronting today’s challenges, leaders want to have an opportunity to discuss it,” a U.S. official said.
China has complained the U.S. plan is too ambitious for developing countries, which generally have higher tariffs on environmental goods than the United States.
It also warned that a U.S. decision this week to investigate whether to slap duties on solar cells and modules from China could hurt cooperation on energy issues.
The U.S. unit of German company SolarWorld asked for the probe, charging that Chinese companies are selling the products in the United States at unfairly low prices and also receive illegal government subsidies.
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, in an interview on Thursday, acknowledged it was a difficult area of discussion but remained upbeat about chances for a deal.
Despite no resolution on the environmental goods and services initiative, the APEC trade ministers did announce progress on related issues, including procedures to streamline import procedures for energy-efficient vehicles.
They also set a regional goal of reducing energy intensity—a measure of an economy’s energy efficiency—at least 45 percent by 2035, using 2005 as a base year. The goal is an aggregate one, meaning individual economies could vary above or below the exact mark.
The trade ministers also established an annual reporting process for leaders to evaluate the progress members are making in phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.
In other areas, trade ministers agreed on steps “to strengthen regional economic integration and expand trade, including by improving supply chain performance and addressing next-generation trade and investment issues,” Kirk said at a press conference.
Ministers also pledged to increase global food security “through open and transparent markets,” he said.
In a separate statement, the trade ministers acknowledged that “deep substantive divergences” among the 153 members of the World Trade Organization are blocking the conclusion of the Doha round of world trade talks launched 10 years ago.
To end the impasse, WTO members should consider breaking the negotiations into smaller parts to see “where consensus agreements might be reached on a provisional or definitive basis in accordance with the Doha mandate” of helping poor countries prosper through trade, they said. (Reuters)