APEC Set For World Trade, Climate Change Talks
SYDNEY - U.S. President George W. Bush hopes to spur momentum for a world trade pact and a global target on climate change at this week's APEC summit in Sydney, but host Australia has warned not to expect binding greenhouse targets.
Organizers anticipate violent demonstrations at the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit, which will be attended by 21 leaders including Bush, and are staging the nation's biggest ever security operation.
U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab, who will attend the summit, said on Monday she was hoping for a strong APEC statement in support of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks.
"The APEC ministerials and the summit are critically timed to influence that process with a strong leaders' statement, a strong ministerial statement endorsing negotiations going forward on the basis of those texts," Schwab told Reuters on Monday.
WTO negotiations will resume in Geneva this week to discuss draft texts aimed at breaking the deadlock between developed and developing nations in global trade talks.
But talks on an APEC free trade area was not expected at the Sydney summit, said Australia's APEC ambassador David Spencer, chair of the summit's Concluding Senior Officials Meeting.
"No one thinks that this is an initiative which will be launched any time soon," Spencer told reporters. "So there's no expectation that at this meeting, for example, we will have our leaders launch off into a negotiation."
APEC's economies -- which include the United States, Japan, China and Russia -- account for nearly half of global trade and
56 percent of the world's gross domestic product.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard used the Internet site You-Tube on Monday to sell the APEC summit, ahead of expected protests against global warming and the Iraq war.
"There will be some individuals who want to protest against APEC," said Howard in an address broadcast on You-Tube.
"I simply ask them to stop for a moment and consider that if they really are worried about issues such as poverty, security and climate change, then they should support APEC and not attack it," said Howard.
Howard has made climate change a major issue at APEC, but has ruled out APEC setting binding greenhouse gas reduction targets, preferring instead "aspirational targets" for each nation.
"The big thing about APEC... is that it brings together in a manageable-sized forum... the three biggest polluters in the world -- Russia, America and China," said Howard.
"I believe this year's APEC meeting can make a difference where it matters -- developing ideas and putting the region's full weight behind a truly global response," he said.
"We need to find ways to address the problem while allowing countries like China and Indonesia to continue to grow and prosper," Howard said.
Bush also wants to begin drawing China and India further into the fold of discussions on a global pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.
"I don't want to single out China, but China has got a major role to play," Bush said in a round-table interview with Asia-Pacific newspapers. "Any agreement without China is not going to be an effective agreement."
Green groups and Australia's Labor opposition say APEC will be a failure if it does not set greenhouse targets.
Australia and the United States are opposed to the Kyoto Protocol, arguing its binding greenhouse targets are flawed as major polluters, like India, are excluded from the protocol.
Media reports that a manual for violent protests was being circulated by protesters vindicated the major APEC security operation, said authorities.
"If there is anti-social, criminal or violent behavior the police will move in strongly and they will make arrests," said New South Wales state deputy premier John Watkins.
Authorities have erected a 5-km (3-mile) security fence across the central business district (CBD) to isolate the leaders in the Sydney Opera House and nearby hotels. A total of 5,000 police and troops are patrolling the city centre.
The first leader to arrive in Australia is Chinese President Hu Jintao, who lands in Western Australia state on Monday where he is expected to be greeted by a Falung Gong candlelight protest against human rights abuses in China.
Bush arrives in Sydney on Tuesday night and protesters plan a rally at Sydney's Town Hall, with the major APEC protest march scheduled for Saturday, the first day of the leaders summit.
(Additional reporting by Caren Bohan in Washington, James Grubel in Canberra, Bill Tarrant in Sydney)