US adopts defensive strategy for Earth summit
WASHINGTON - The United States will adopt a defensive and conservative strategy at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg, resisting any changes to international agreements on trade and development finance, officials said.
The U.S. officials told reporters in a briefing that the American delegation would oppose any new targets or specific aid figures that may be proposed.
The U.S. delegation will try to protect the trade consensus reached in meetings of the World Trade Organisation in the Qatari capital Doha in November and the development financing consensus reached at a U.N. conference on development financing in Monterrey in Mexico in March, the U.S. officials said.
The United States is already being criticized for President George W. Bush\'s decision not to attend the conference, which opens later this week. Secretary of State Colin Powell will attend for two days in early September.
The officials told reporters at a briefing that in meetings to prepare for Johannesburg some developing countries had tried to renegotiate the Doha and Monterrey documents, either to commit rich countries to give more aid or to dilute the requirement that governments adopt \"good governance\".
\"We believe that in Doha and in Monterrey that we achieved a consensus. What we would like to see as we go into Johannesburg is not a rewriting of texts that had been agreed to,\" one senior U.S. official said.
At preparatory meetings in New York and Bali, some of the participants tried to introduce \"new targets\" and \"new ideas\" which would have increased development financing for poor countries, another official said.
\"So what we are trying to do is really stick to the consensus that we achieved in Monterrey,\" she added.
\"We really want to stick to the language that was agreed to in Doha and not go back to some of the rather dirigiste demands that the developed countries have a responsibility to provide either \"x\" amounts of assistance or targets that are really unrealistic to achieve,\" the official said.
The essence of the Monterrey consensus was that rich countries would do more to help poor countries develop, while the poor countries must make sure the money is well spent by fighting corruption and improving government efficiency.
One of the officials said that at the Bali meeting in June some countries had tried to \"push back\" on the good governance requirement but the United States was resisting.
Environmentalists have criticized President Bush for skipping the Johannesburg summit, saying it showed a failure of leadership by the world\'s most powerful nation.
The Bush administration had already upset most of the rest of the world last year by walking away from the Kyoto agreement to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
But the U.S. official said: \"We have a very good record, both to talk about and to demonstrate.\"
\"There is a need to explain. On climate change, we have a common goal but we have a difference of opinion as to how to get from here to there,\" she added.
The United States is patching together an aid package valued at almost $4.5 billion to announce in Johannesburg but much of the money comes in programs announced previously. It includes $970 million over three years for water projects.
Sen. John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat who was briefed on the package on Tuesday, said in a statement the Bush administration was not doing enough on AIDS or global warming.
\"What passes for their agenda - shifting around funds from existing efforts and giving it a new name - sends a clear signal ...: the world\'s largest polluter isn\'t interested in finding a solution to global warming,\" he said.
Story by Jonathan Wright
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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