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Apec countries seal deals

Publication Date : 10-09-2012

 

China, Japan, South Korea and several Asean members may not have calmed down over maritime disputes during the prestigious Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit.

But to the extent of economic deals, there is one to celebrate by the club of 21 member economies, particularly by developed nations.

A concrete outcome of the summit is undoubtedly the historic US-initiated consensus of 54 environmental goods to be included on the list of products subjected to tariff caps of up to 5 per cent by 2015.

The goal to draft such a list was first formulated by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) back in 2001, but to no avail.

“An important achievement was the adoption of the list of environmental goods. Our effort to implement arrangements and to reduce duties on environmental goods was tough, but at the end of the day we managed to adopt a credible list,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin in a press conference after the end of the Apec summit yesterday on Russkiy Island, off the coast of Vladivostok.

“Under the umbrella of the WTO, similar efforts have already been proceeding for over 10 years — and so far they have brought no results. Meanwhile, we were able to accomplish this list in just a few months, and this list of environmental goods was finalised during the meeting.”

Indonesia, which first strongly opposed the pact, finally agreed to the deal after the US pledged to ease barriers to the importation of the country’s crude palm oil (CPO).

The US Environmental Protection Agency added Indonesia’s CPO to its blacklist of imported commodities in January this year based on allegations that Indonesia’s CPO emitted more carbon than the agency’s regulations allowed.

“There will be a positive prospect for our CPO in a couple of months. Barriers for the product may be eased, even before 2015. There’ll no longer be any obstruction in the trade of our CPO,” said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in response to the Apec green goods pact.

Since its inception in 1989, Apec has helped reduce tariffs and other barriers to trade across the Asia-Pacific region. Business transaction costs were cut by 5 per cent between 2006 and 2010, according to the Apec Secretariat, representing cost savings of close to US$59 billion for business.

Apec leaders also backed Europe’s move to safeguard the euro area, and pledged to refrain from imposing new trade restrictions through 2015.

“The financial markets remain fragile, while high public deficits and debts in some advanced economies are creating strong headwinds to economic recovery globally. The events in Europe are adversely affecting growth in the region,” said the leaders’ joint statement.

“In such circumstances, we are resolved to work collectively to support growth and foster financial stability, and restore confidence.”

Although Apec is designed as an economic framework aimed at liberalising and integrating trade within the Pacific-Rim region, the forum is often used to help ease tension among its members.

Because any decision in the forum is by nature unbinding, leaders feel more comfortable to attend it, uniting many disputed nations into one forum.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for example, urged Japan and South Korea to cool their tempers over their territorial disputes during the Apec summit.

“I raised these issues with both of them,” said Clinton after meeting Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

“Their interests really lie in making sure that they lower the temperature and work together in a concerted way to have a calm and restrained approach.”

The leaders of South Korea, Japan and China did not hold any bilateral functions aside from a brief discussion during the leaders’ meeting.

 

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