China-U.S. “Climate” Accord
by Megan Simons NCPA, November 12, 2014
A big deal is being made over the United States’ and China’s “landmark agreement” to curb carbon emissions. The climate aspects of the agreement are important for the global community — particularly in light of United Nations General Assembly President Sam Kahamba Kutesa’s announcement that he would convene a high-level event on combating climate change in June. While this joint agreement is seen as an important step for climate change enthusiasts, this new accord between China and the U.S. has much more far-reaching energy, trade and security implications.
Energy. As part of its attempts to cut emissions, China plans on expanding its “clean” energy sources, such as solar power and windmills, to produce 20 percent of China’s total energy production by 2030. President Obama, in return, intends to reduce carbon emissions by up to 28 percent by 2025. Considering China and the United States are the top two carbon polluters, any “meaningful worldwide pact” on the issue would founder without their support, according to The New York Times.
Trade. Cuts to tariffs were a big discussion during the “unexpectedly productive” meeting. Obama agreed to cut tariffs for technology products, including video-game consoles, computer software and medical equipment. Overall, Obama and the Chinese agreed to eliminate more than 200 categories of tariffs, which the Obama administration estimates could create up to 60,000 jobs and generate $1 trillion is sales per year. However, the promotion of two competing free-trade blocs for the Asian region — the U.S.-backed Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Chinese-led Free Trade Area of Asia Pacific, which was recently approved for study — underscores the continued competition between China and the United States.
Security. Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping made headway in two important security topics during the negotiations. First, Obama and Xi agreed to a military accord to avert clashes between American and Chinese forces in the waters off of the Chinese coast. Additionally, Obama and Xi agreed to resume the U.S.-China working group on cybersecurity issues, which broke down after the U.S. brought hacking charges against several Chinese military officials.
Many of these issues won’t be easy to tackle for the Obama administration. However, Obama still hopes to take the U.S.-China relationship to a “new level.”
To a point, the announcement of the U.S.-China accord is exciting. Yet rather than focusing solely on the often-controversial capping of carbon emissions, perhaps we should focus on the other, arguably bigger announcements to come out of the accord — like reduced tariffs, possibly job creation, and shoring up national security efforts.