- The Washington Times - Monday, December 14, 2009


As President Obama prepared for the United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen, he should have remembered President Clinton’s experience at another international conference, in Seattle 10 years ago.

In 1999, the World Trade Organization tried to launch a new round of negotiations. Mr. Clinton had signed the agreement creating the WTO and went to Seattle hoping for success.

His aim was to open overseas markets to American exports within a general “free trade” system. But he ran into a buzz saw of conflicting national interests. The developing countries wanted to limit their imports of agricultural and manufactured goods to foster their own industries. They wanted the United States and other developed countries to open their markets on a nonreciprocal basis to support their export-led growth strategies. The European Union and Japan joined China and India on the “food security” issue and in demanding that the United States drop its anti-dumping laws. The conference took on such an anti-American tone that Mr. Clinton walked out of the talks, collapsing them.

The Copenhagen conference is based on the same anti-American agenda. The founding document of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change went into effect in 1994, the same year as the WTO. The UNFCCC document asserts, “The largest share of historical and current global emissions of greenhouse gases has originated in developed countries, that per capita emissions in developing countries are still relatively low and that the share of global emissions originating in developing countries will grow to meet their social and development needs.”

Thus, the full responsibility for cutting greenhouse gases (GHG) falls on the United States, Europe and Japan, while China, India and the rest (known collectively as the G77) do not have to do anything. Their right to grow comes first, an easy priority to embrace by governments that have rejected the climate paranoia of Western liberalism. They have used the United Nations like the WTO to promote a shift in the global balance of wealth and power.

President George W. Bush was inconsistent in his reaction to the demand for a new international economic order within the zero-sum world of global politics. He accepted a new WTO “development” round of negotiations based on the terms his predecessor had rejected.

According to the WTO Ministerial Declaration, issued in 2001, kicking off the Doha Round, “The majority of WTO Members are developing countries. We seek to place their needs and interests at the heart of the Work Programme adopted in this Declaration.” However, the Doha Round stalled as the developing world insisted on asymmetrical and nonreciprocal outcomes, which the Bush administration resisted.

On the climate front, Mr. Bush rejected the Kyoto Protocol because it placed restrictions only on the developed countries and not on the rising economies of China and India. Beijing, which has taken over de facto leadership of the G77 by having its ally Sudan elected to chair the group, insists that Copenhagen follow the Kyoto precedent. Fifty African states walked out of the Barcelona UNFCCC meeting in October to protest any deviation from Kyoto’s unequal terms.

On Nov. 29, officials from China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Sudan met in Beijing. They crafted a document with four “non-negotiable” elements for Copenhagen. They will never accept legally binding GHG emissions cuts, mitigation actions that are not paid for by the developed countries, international (foreign) measurement of mitigation actions, or the use of climate change as a trade barrier. The last point is in response to language in U.S. climate legislation that could impose tariffs on imports from countries that do not limit emissions. They insist that legally binding restrictions be imposed on the developed countries.

Mr. Clinton and Mr. Bush were both supported by strong, bipartisan sentiment in Congress against appeasing foreign demands that put America at a disadvantage. Before Seattle, 234 House members - a bipartisan majority, co-sponsored a bill instructing Mr. Clinton “not to participate in any international negotiation in which anti-dumping or anti-subsidy rules are part of the negotiating agenda.” Before the Kyoto talks, the Senate passed a resolution unanimously instructing U.S. negotiators not to accept a deal that did not apply with equal force to the developing countries. Unfortunately, today’s Democratic Congress is giving Mr. Obama a blank check.

Mr. Obama has been accused by critics of thinking he is president of the world rather than of the United States, and thus he is willing to sell out American interests to court foreign opinion at the United Nations. Copenhagen will be the test of whether this accusation has a factual basis.

Copenhagen has been downgraded from a treaty-making conference to one that will only establish the framework for a future climate treaty. But what is in the framework declaration matters. Mr. Obama must not accept terms that put the United States at an economic disadvantage.

William R. Hawkins is a consultant specializing in international economic and national-security issues. He is a former economics professor and Republican congressional staff member.

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