ASEAN and partners sign Cebu declaration on energy security

Sixteen countries from the Asia-Pacific region recently signed an agreement to boost energy efficiency and curb greenhouse gas emissions in the region. The Cebu Declaration on East Asian Energy Security was signed by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its six regional partners at a summit in Cebu, the Philippines.

ASEAN consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, while its six dialogue partners (Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea) are among the world's major energy consumers.

The signatories to the declaration have appealed for joint investments and efforts to ensure a reliable, adequate and affordable energy supply to the region. Discouraging fossil fuel dependence, the declaration also calls for further investments in renewable energy sectors and a common standard for the use of biofuels in engines and motor vehicles.Experts speculate that the declaration paves way for further negotiations involving energy supply and technology cooperation between countries in the Asian-Pacific region.

During the summit, India also took its burgeoning economic ties with ASEAN to a new level by agreeing to finalise and sign by July 2007, a free trade agreement that will exclude only five per cent of the items under the negative list from the bilateral trade. Both sides have been doing hard bargaining over this for the last few years. In a compromise solution, both sides have agreed to the phased reduction of tariffs on four highly sensitive commodities: pepper, crude and refined palm oil and black tea.