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APEC—The Big Picture

By Shar Adams
Epoch Times Australia Staff
Sep 11, 2007

Prime Minister John Howard believes the APEC Economic Leaders summit was a success and declared the <i>Sydney Declaration on Climate Change</i> as the most significant outcome. (James Burke/The Epoch Times)
Prime Minister John Howard believes the APEC Economic Leaders summit was a success and declared the Sydney Declaration on Climate Change as the most significant outcome. (James Burke/The Epoch Times)

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SYDNEY—The 2007 meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) leaders has consolidated the region as a complex, yet formidable, 21st century economic zone.

While much of the language was soft in commitment, significant agreement was reached among the 21 leaders to revive global trade talks, formulate policies on climate change and to address energy security, counterterrorism and corruption in the region.

Significant trade deals were also made, particularly, but not solely, for Australia.

Among the deals was a $45 billion agreement between Woodside Energy and PetroChina Company Limited to supply China with LNG gas.

The Russian Federation also signed a nuclear co-operation pact with Australia to import more than $A1 billion a year supply of Australian uranium for use in Russia's civil nuclear power industry.

Prime Minister John Howard said the APEC leaders' meeting had been a success and claimed the Sydney Declaration on Climate Change as the most significant outcome.

"The contents of the Sydney Declaration dealing with climate change issues represent a very significant step forward," Mr Howard said.

The declaration is widely seen as a coup for Mr Howard as it is the first time developing countries, particularly China, have officially agreed on the need to set goals for cutting greenhouse gas

Negotiations with China over the declaration were understood to have been tense as Chinese leader Mr Hu had made it clear he supported both the UN initiatives to deal with climate change and the Kyoto Protocol. The latter requires developed nations to sign legally binding targets of reduced emissions by 2012 and developing nations to sign agreements after 2012.

Mr Howard, however, made it equally clear that he did not support the Kyoto protocol.

A compromise, The Sydney Declaration, acknowledges agreement on the need for "a long-term aspirational global emissions reduction goal" rather than anything binding and refers specifically to "an effective post-2012 international agreement", which is after the Kyoto Protocol's expiry date.

Differences with China also arose over the three-way security talks that took place between Japanese Prime Minister Abe, US President George Bush and Australia's Mr Howard.

In a further show of diplomatic juggling, Mr Howard defended the talks as a natural allegiance based on shared values.

"The trilateral security dialogue is a natural coming together of three specific democracies—Australia, the United States and Japan. It is not directed at anybody," the Prime Minister said.

Mr Sakaba, a spokesman for the Japanese delegation, said a range of issues were discussed between the three leaders at a breakfast meeting and these included counterterrorism, China, Iran and North Korea.

While Prime Minister Abe's visions of establishing an "Asian arc of freedom and prosperity" was not directly addressed, Mr Sakaba said, all three leaders acknowledged similar views on "democracy, human rights and basic freedoms".

President Bush, in his opening speech in Australia, acknowledged the economic potential of the Asia-Pacific region, but also commented on the complexities of dealing with it, particularly with both Russia and China.

Mr Bush talked about an Asia-Pacific Free Trade Agreement and the importance of co-operation in counter-terrorism.

He also said the US was proposing an Asia-Pacific Democracy Partnership that would "support democratic values, strengthen democratic institutions and assist those who are working to build and sustain free societies across the Asia Pacific region".

When asked if China would be part of that group, Australia Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told reporters at a doorstop interview: "China is not a democracy, so no."

The Russians Are Coming

While Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed content to observe rather than make any significant statement during the APEC leaders' week, Russia's interests in the region were palpable.

Russia is "a leading producer and exporter of energy", President Putin said in a statement, and Russia was looking at the Asia-Pacific region for "new opportunities for growth and co-operation".

Mr Putin met with US President Mr Bush while at APEC to discuss missile defence, Russia's accession to the World Trade Organisation and Iran's nuclear programme.

On his way to APEC, the Russian leader signed an agreement to sell Russian military equipment to Indonesia, a move widely seen as reasserting Russian influence in the region.

The last time a Russian leader was in Indonesia was 50 years ago, before the break-up of the Soviet Union, the BBC reported.

Moscow was then a key Indonesian ally and the country's main arms supplier.

Russia has said it does not want to return to the past and that its new relationship with Indonesia is not about ideology, but about cementing Russia's presence in a region with growing importance.

President Putin's trip to Australia for APEC was the first time a Russian leader had visited the Southern continent in an official capacity.