Vladivostok, Russia - The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministerial Meeting (AMM) ended on an exceptionally high note yesterday as the gathering of ministers from 21 member economies finally reconciled on an issue that had, until yesterday, failed to .meet resolution over the past decade.
What has been described as a "true breakthrough," this year's APEC week saw the drafting of the "so-called list of environmental goods" of significant value in terms of assessing environmental risks that are to be used to control air and water quality.
A press briefing co-chaired by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Economic Development Minister Andrey Belousov explained that the items on the list will be traded "almost duty-free" if leaders, who are to meet over the weekend, endorse it.
"The APEC member economies will undertake a commitment to reduce custom duties to five per cent by 2015," of which some current duties stand at 30 per cent or even higher, said Belousov.
"We are seeing a new market emerging for environmental goods," and the list, it was said, contains 54 types of goods that promote environmental growth such as special systems to monitor and control the environment, furnaces and other incineration equipment, wind generators, alternative current generators and so on.
From a Bruneian perspective, this particular move shows promising potential as the Abode of Peace is currently in the midst of concentrating its efforts on environmental preservation for various reasons, including eco-tourism, promising the future generation with natural resources as well as ensuring adequate supply of oil and gas through alternative sources of energy.
"This goal to draft such a list was formulated by the World Trade Organization (WTO) back in 2001, so it took the WTO over 10 years to agree on the list and they failed. Russia and the APEC members under the presidency of Russia managed to draft such a list," he continued.
The discussion, it was said, "was very intense," as the meeting started with a negotiation of only 20 goods, which slowly increased to 25 and then the final tally that was rationalised based on an earlier foundation and by "homework done by many economies".
Though a number of international media has reported that their leaders had reservations with regards to the said list, it was noted that the proposed items would not have been endorsed if any of the APEC member economies had disagreed.
"It is an outstanding result especially since it happened against the backdrop of growing protectionism in global trade and difficult WTO problems in the DOHA round of negotiations," it was elaborated further.
Extra two hours were invested in the negotiations and though the international media speculated that conflict had risen during discussions, it was explained that, "Striking consensus between different economies is a very demanding goal. So, indeed (the two hours) were dedicated entirely to debate the list. But I wouldn't call that conflict. And very many economies participated in the discussion.
"We're not talking about a confrontation between two or three members. Many economies had sensitive issues so we tried to come up with general approaches and solutions."
The meeting itself, meanwhile, had discussed issues relevant to the global and regional economies and took stock of cooperation issues as well as a number of other various areas, with special attention paid to "the main ways forward".
The foreign minister said, "We reaffirmed our commitment to the liberalisation agenda. We have shown a general readiness to improve conditions for trade and investment and avoid artificial protectionism.
"Representatives of all the APEC economies are in favour of enhancing regional economic integration as the main tool for moving towards a free and open trade system.
"We have come up with further measures to improve supply chains and get rid of bottlenecks in supply chains. We also identified specific measures that would help to attain this goal.
"We recognise the need to take more action to achieve food security. We are grateful to our partners for supporting the Russian proposal in this field. We talked about increasing the stability of the food market, ensuring access to food for socially vulnerable groups, introducing innovative technologies in agriculture and countering illegal exploitation of marine resources.
"We have seen that contributing to innovate growth is another very promising area of integration. Russia initiated an innovative dialogue where representatives of public circles, business communities and acadameia will be involved."
Decisions attributed to the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC), he added, have resulted in the creation of the APEC Policy Partnership in Science, Technology and Innovation, which will be an example of public-private partnerships.
Noted as well is Russia's proposal to establish a single educational space in the APEC region and there are plans to establish comprehensive cooperation between various agencies, research institutes, educational institutes and business communities and to create various educational dialogues on the said matter.--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin