Obama in push for climate pact, trade deal

Trans-Pacific Partnership hosted by President Barack Obama in Manila, Philippines.
Trans-Pacific Partnership hosted by President Barack Obama in Manila, Philippines. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

US President Barack Obama yesterday sought to build momentum behind a legacy-burnishing trade pact and an ambitious climate change agreement.

In talks on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) summit here, Mr Obama said the Trans- Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal "is not only good economically but also reflects our common values".

"TPP is at the heart of our shared vision for the future of this dynamic region," he said.

Twelve nations have already signed up for the US-led trade deal, which aims to liberalise trade for 40 per cent of the global economy.

But the TPP faces stiff opposition from both Democrats and Republicans over farm tariffs and protection for pharmaceuticals, and is unlikely to be voted on by the US Congress before Mr Obama leaves office.

But the US leader said he was confident the deal would be ratified.

"There has not been a trade deal that has been done in modern American politics that is not occasionally challenging, but we get it done, and I'm confident we are going to be able to get it done," he said.

Mr Obama is also wrestling with China, which is pushing for a broader trade agreement: the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP).

China is pointedly excluded from the TPP, part of Washington's attempt to ramp up influence in the region with its "pivot" to Asia.

Making his own case, Chinese President Xi Jinping, also in Manila for the Apec summit, said the FTAAP would prevent a "fragmentation" of the world economy.

"We must build an open economy… We must commit ourselves to win-win cooperation of post-protectionism and promote fair competition," he told an Apec business forum.

Mr Obama, meanwhile, also pressed for the conclusion of an "ambitious framework" to cut greenhouse gas emissions during the two-week United Nations climate change conference set to begin on Nov 30 in Paris.

"If we want to prevent the worst effects of climate change before it's too late, the time to act is now… We have to come together around an ambitious framework (in Paris) to protect the one planet that we have while we still can," he told business leaders at the Apec CEO Summit.

At least 160 countries representing 90 per cent of global emissions have put forward targets after 2020.

"But we have a lot of work to do," said Mr Obama.

Urging business leaders to invest in ways to cut harmful carbon emissions, Mr Obama said climate change "is a challenge and also an opportunity".

Members of the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) struck a deal early this week to restrict subsidies used to export technology for coal-fired power plants, ending months of wrangling.

SEE WORLD: OECD to cut financing for coal-fired power plants

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2015, with the headline 'Obama in push for climate pact, trade deal'. Print Edition | Subscribe