U.S. expects "significant" APEC step on green trade

HONOLULU Sun Nov 13, 2011 3:34pm EST

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks before a Luau for APEC leaders after dinner during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii, November 12, 2011. REUTERS/Larry Downing

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks before a Luau for APEC leaders after dinner during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii, November 12, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

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HONOLULU (Reuters) - The United States expects Asia Pacific leaders on Sunday to take a "significant step" toward reducing tariffs and other barriers that block trade in environmentally-friendly good and services, a senior administration official said on Sunday.

"We're in a good place. We has some very constructive discussions around the important issue of environmental goods and services trade liberalization," the U.S. official told Reuters at the annual summit meeting of the 21 members of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation.

"We expect that when the outcome is explained after the leaders meeting it will be recognized as a very significant step forward," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity before the leaders issue their statement.

The United States has been pushing APEC countries to commit to cap tariffs on environmental goods such as solar panels, wind and hydraulic turbines, air pollution filters and sewage treatment pumps to 5 percent.

It also has been pressing the group to tackle certain regulatory barriers that hamper trade in environmental goods and services sectors including air pollution control, sewage treatment, solid and hazardous waste management, nature and landscape protection and noise pollution control.

China had criticized last week as asking too much of developing countries like itself that have higher tariffs than the United States, and APEC trade ministers meeting on Friday were unable to agree on details of the plan.

"We advanced work ... and submitted the issue to APEC Leaders to consider how best to take this work forward," the trade ministers said in a joint statement.

Under Secretary of State Robert Hormats told Reuters on Saturday that APEC countries were putting the "finishing touches" on the package, but declined to discuss details.

The United States and China are the world's two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases blamed for climate change, so a pact to spur trade in goods that replace fossil fuels or help control emissions could have a big environmental benefit.

APEC economies account for about 60 percent of current trade in environmental goods and services, making it a natural area to look for ways to spur growth, U.S. officials say.

A 2010 Commerce Department report said the global market for environmental technologies was $782.4 billion in 2008 and the United was by far the largest single market, accounting for $299.5 billion of the total."

(Reporting by Doug Palmer

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