- The Washington Times - Monday, September 10, 2007

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) — Pacific Rim leaders yesterday pledged political will and flexibility to rescue faltering global trade talks, after forging an agreement to curb climate change that they hope will influence a new global strategy on the problem.

“There has never been a more urgent need to make progress” in World Trade Organization talks, leaders of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum said at the end of their annual summit. APEC’s economies account for nearly half of global trade and just over half of the world’s economy.

The pledges on trade and global warming are the main outcomes from this year’s APEC gathering. After issuing final statements, the leaders headed for the exits, preceded a day earlier by President Bush, wrapping up the two-day summit.

In the round robin of diplomacy that accompanies the annual gatherings, Mr. Bush held a three-way meeting with Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, key allies in the Iraq war.

This year’s statements on trade and climate change attempt to influence negotiations taking place elsewhere.

“We pledge the political will, flexibility and ambition to ensure the Doha Round negotiations enter their final phase this year,” the leaders said. “We call on our WTO partners to join in this vital effort.”

Negotiations resumed in Geneva last week on two proposals to break a deadlock between rich and poor nations stemming from how much to cut barriers in agricultural and industrial trade. APEC leaders said early progress on these issues is needed to ensure that the talks succeed.

A successful global trade deal would “deliver new trade flows for the benefit of all, including developing countries,” the leaders said, adding strong backing for a rules-based, global trading system.

The Pacific Rim leaders also said they will continue to examine a proposal to create a Pacific-wide free-trade zone that would stretch from China to Chile and include all 21 APEC members. The idea, first floated three years ago, is proposed by business leaders as an alternative, should global trade talks ultimately fail.

Mr. Howard claimed success yesterday for the summit’s centerpiece agreement on climate change. Agreements on two nonbinding goals — improving energy efficiency and increasing forest cover — were important steps toward building an international consensus for tackling the problem, he said.

“No one meeting, no one agreement is going to fix this issue,” Mr. Howard said at the summit’s final press conference.

Unlike the U.N.-backed Kyoto Protocol, the APEC program does not set targets on the greenhouse-gas emissions that many scientists blame for global warming.

Instead, APEC members will reduce “energy intensity” — the amount of energy needed to produce a dollar of gross domestic product — 25 percent by 2030. They pledged to increase forest cover in the region by nearly 50 million acres by 2020.

Though environmental activists and some climate change researchers dismissed the agreement as too timid, supporters said the significance lies in getting APEC’s diverse grouping to agree to common goals.

APEC includes four of the world’s biggest polluters: the U.S., China, Russia and Japan. So the agreement could influence upcoming talks in Washington, New York and Indonesia on a climate change blueprint to replace Kyoto, which expires in 2012.

APEC leaders also said the grouping will not consider admitting new members before 2010, leaving India and 11 other countries who applied to wait.

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