Australia wants India to join APEC; seeks consensus on climate plan

04 Sep 2007


Mumbai: Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer has expressed support for India becoming a member of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC), which is meeting in Sydney this week.

"My private view is that APEC would benefit from India being a member but there''s certainly, from our discussions over the last few months, not an emerging consensus for expanding the membership of APEC," Downer said.

Downer said India was among 12 countries, along with Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and a number of nations in Central and Latin America that had applied to join the 21-member grouping.

APEC, which was established in 1989, groups Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the US and Vietnam, represents half of world trade, a third of its population and 60 per cent of the output of goods and services.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard also last week backed India''s case for admission to the Asia-Pacific club. Howard, however, expects APEC to extend a moratorium on new membership until 2010 at this week''s meeting.

India has long been interested in joining APEC and India-backers believe that its geographical location, trade and investment interaction and the sheer size of its economy are too big to be ignored by a forum that includes tiny nations such as Papua New Guinea and Peru.

Meanwhile, Australia is under pressure to lower aspirational goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change. In fact, the APEC leaders'' meeting is under pressure from some of its members to give up on even that slender objective and settle for something even less ambitious.

It''s looking more likely that in the closing declaration the United States, China, Russia, Japan, Indonesia and other major emitters will agree that cutting emissions is something they aspire to but not something they want to set a target on.

In a draft leaked to the press the week before Apec convened, Howard''s officials had suggested a 25-per cent reduction by 2030 in energy intensity - reducing by a quarter the energy required to produce goods and services

But, there is still time for Howard to bring other APEC leaders round to adopting an "agreed long-term aspirational goal." He has the support of US President George W Bush in wanting to move the grouping forward.

Foreign minister Alexander Downer is still optimistic that there is movement to be made. "We will be pressing for a commitment by all APEC economies to the key elements of a genuinely global response to climate change. Australia would like to see the APEC leaders agree for the first time that a new international agreement should include an agreed long-term aspiration goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions," Downer said.

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