China Questions U.S. APEC Goals

Ahead of a meeting between Chinese President Hu Jintao and U.S. President Barack Obama during this week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Hawaii, Chinese officials cautioned that the U.S. may have aimed too high with its proposals on environmental initiatives and a U.S.-led free trade initiative. From The Wall Street Journal:

Wu Hailong, assistant minister of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a news briefing that some U.S. goals for the summit are “too ambitious.”

Specifically, he said the U.S. has proposed lowering tariffs on so-called “environmental goods” to 5% or less by the end of 2012, and also that countries cut their energy intensity, or energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product, to 50% of 2005 levels by 2035.

Speaking at the same briefing, Yu Jianhua, China’s assistant minister of commerce, said U.S. tariffs on a range of “environmental goods” average 1.4%, while the average in China is a tad under 7%.

“So the problem is, if we set the 5% target, the U.S. wouldn’t have to do anything,” he said.

A U.S. State Department official told Reuters that whether or not China joins the proposed free trade agreement, he hoped the standards set forth would at least impact Beijing’s trade policies:

“If we have high enough principles and practices in it, it will give a signal to China that other countries are playing by a higher set of international rules,” U.S. Undersecretary of State Robert Hormats told the Reuters Washington Summit.

China has said it supports free trade in the Asia-Pacific and will watch progress on the TPP, which some analysts think Japan could ask to join at this week’s APEC meeting.

But experts say Beijing prefers other regional frameworks that would not force it to open its markets at the behest of the United States.

China’s ambassador to the United States, Zhang Yesui, struck a more optimistic tone in a China Daily report today:

“The success of the meeting will be important in promoting regional cooperation in the Asia-Pacific area, facilitating world economic recovery and growth,” Zhang said Monday.

“The Asia-Pacific area is the most energetic area in the world economy, but it also faces many difficulties and challenges in the region,” Zhang said, noting that “its member economies are developing at different levels”.

“China is willing to increase coordination and cooperation with other APEC member economies to achieve practical results from the summit,” Zhang said.

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