Asia-Pacific nations have made a breakthrough in promoting trade in “green” technology, and the US is pressing ahead with efforts to carve out a regional free-trade zone, a senior US official said yesterday.
Speaking before a summit of leaders of the 21-member APEC, US Deputy Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis said the group had agreed to slash import duties on technologies that can promote economic growth without endangering the environment.
“This is really a significant achievement, in that it shows how APEC can lead,” Marantis said in an interview after ministers finished their preparations for the summit today and tomorrow in the Russian Pacific port of Vladivostok.
“It allows us to accomplish the twin goals of liberalizing trade and green growth,” he said.
Ministers agreed on a list of 54 green technologies that will be subject to import duties of 5 percent or less from 2015, following through on a commitment made by leaders at the last APEC summit in Honolulu a year ago.
According to summit documents seen by Reuters, the list includes equipment used in generating power from renewable energy sources such as the sun, wind and biomass; treating waste water; recycling and environmental monitoring.
Officials have described the clean technology initiative as a main summit “deliverable” for APEC, a consensus-based group that focuses on economic issues and links rising nations led by China with advanced economies such as the US.
APEC accounts for 40 percent of the world’s population, 54 percent of economic output and 44 percent of trade. Exports within the group are forecast by consultancy firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers to nearly treble over the next decade to US$14.6 trillion, while exports to non-APEC countries will double to US$5.6 trillion, making the Pacific Rim the focus of global growth in the years to come.
APEC will next year tackle local content requirements, which are in effect import restrictions that in the view of the US distort trade.
The diverse nature of the Pacific-Rim economies, which unlike crisis-hit Europe are showing relatively strong growth, has led some APEC countries to join Washington in pushing for a new free-trade deal called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Marantis said trade ministers from nine nations participating in the TPP talks had met in Vladivostok and affirmed their determination to move ahead at negotiations to be hosted next week by the US in Leesburg, Virginia.
The Leesburg talks will be the 14th round in a TPP process that was initiated by APEC leaders at a summit two years ago. Negotiators will seek to iron out further details of a 29-chapter multilateral free trade deal.
The TPP groups the US, Vietnam, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Peru, while Canada and Mexico are due to be formally admitted to the discussions next month.
There are no deadlines for finalizing the TPP deal, but Marantis said negotiators were seeking to complete the bulk of their work next year.
China, the second largest economy in the world, is not a party to the process, while APEC summit host Russia — which has only just joined the WTO — says it is not ready to look at joining the TPP.