China warns of trade protectionism over climate

A top Chinese diplomat warned developed countries against using climate change as an excuse to set up trade barriers.

China warns of trade protectionism over climate

A top Chinese diplomat warned developed countries on Tuesday against using climate change as an excuse to set up trade barriers, potentially raising a new hurdle to reaching a deal at UN-led climate negotiations.

Yu Qingtai, China's climate change ambassador, said rich nations should not think that slapping carbon tariffs on imports from countries with different emissions control regimes would substitute for reaching a global deal to tackle warming.

His comments came shortly after China said that Premier Wen Jiabao would leave for Copenhagen on Wednesday afternoon, suggesting he would arrive earlier than previously planned and adding extra political impetus for a deal.

With just three days left before the deadline for a global agreement, delegates have struggled to bridge rifts between rich and poor nations, particularly over funding to help poor nations curb global warming and deal with its impact.

Carbon border tariffs -- fees on imports from countries perceived as weak on cutting emissions -- have long been denounced by China, but trade has not been a high profile issue at negotiations so far, even though any substantial deal would bring major economic shifts.

"We oppose the actions of any country that sets up new trade barriers under the excuse of protecting the planet," Yu said, when asked about trade concerns at the talks.

"The attempt to resolve the issues in multilateral negotiations by taking unilateral trade steps will not succeed," Yu said, adding that history showed protectionism damaged those who espoused it as well as their targets.

Lawmakers in parts of the United States that produce cement, chemicals, steel and other energy-intensive products, have called for carbon tariffs in any climate legislation.

Experts fear climate could add yet another layer of discord into complicated U.S. trade relations with China. The two are already at odds over Chinese tires and U.S. exports of poultry and auto products.

However if Washington and Beijing can reach agreement on another area which has been a key bone of contention -- monitoring China's promised emissions curbs -- it could potentially smooth the way to avoiding a showdown over trade. If China's emissions efforts are measured and verified, U.S. lawmakers might be slower to impose tariffs on its imports.

Yu confirmed China's delegation was having many bilateral talks with other parties. He declined to say if they were with the United States, but NGOs said a deal could be in sight.

"Both sides have been having extensive consultations on this issue for the past several months, and it seems like they may have laid the groundwork for some kind of compromise, which could break the impasse," said Ailun Yang of Greenpeace China.

Reuters
Last Mod: 16 Aralık 2009, 00:13
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