Despite ongoing solar industry trade disputes involving China, a group of 21 Asia-Pacific nations have agreed to reduce import duties for green technologies that grow their economies without hurting the environment starting in 2015, reports The New York Times.
The agreement by the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum sets import duties of 5% or less for 54 technology categories including solar, wind, biomass and other renewable generation technologies, wastewater treatment, recycling and environmental monitoring systems.
The deal delivers on a commitment made during the APEC meeting last year in Honolulu and sets the stage for a broad regional free-trade zone called the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
“This is really a significant achievement, in that it shows how APEC can lead,” Demetrios Marantis, the deputy US trade representative, told the NY Times. “It allows us to accomplish the twin goals of liberalizing trade and green growth.”
With more than 40% of the world's population, APEC countries represent a rich economic opportunity - exports to countries within the group are expected to nearly triple to $14.6 trillion, according to PriceWaterhouseCoopers data.
While lower duties are welcome, the group still has to tackle the local content requirements (import restrictions) that limit imports into some APEC nations. That issue is on the agenda for 2013.
Tensions are also high between China and both the US and the European Union (EU) because of ongoing solar and wind trade disputes.
In the US, Chinese solar panel imports are subject to import duties of 31% to 250%; the US is also imposing tariffs of 14% and higher on wind turbine towers.
China has launched its own investigations in retaliation, challenging state subsidies, but there has been no specific outcome yet.
Talks aimed at settling a similar solar trade dispute between the EU and China are in process.
Nine countries involved in the APEC forum are also part of the broader Trans-Pacific Partnership, which wants to create a free-trade zone similar to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Those nations include the US, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Canada and Mexico will join in October. Neither China nor Russia is part of the group.
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