WASHINGTON, DC - Minimizing barriers to trade for green building products, materials and services in the Asia-Pacific region though cooperation on standards and conformity assessment took significant steps forward at the March 3-4 Conference on Green Buildings and Green Growth, which focused on the enabling role of standards and trade.

The U.S. government partnered with ASTM International and approximately 20 other trade associations, standards development organizations and conformity assessment bodies to plan and host the conference, which attracted 150 participants from all of the 21 APEC member economies. The two-day conference was one event in a series leading up to the first APEC Senior Officials Meetings in 2011 hosted in Washington, D.C.

The building products sector is one of the highest performing manufacturing export sectors for the United States with exports of $30 billion (2009), supporting an estimated 153,000 jobs. Key topics of the conference included a discussion of a recently completed APEC survey of its members' policies on green buildings and both voluntary and mandatory requirements for market entry. Businesses discussed their perspectives on the opportunities and challenges of trading green building products in the Asia-Pacific market.

APEC, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, is a 21-member intergovernmental forum that works through private-sector input to reduce tariffs and other trade barriers across the Asia-Pacific region. APEC represents 60 percent of global production, 47 percent of world trade and one-third of the earth's population.

Increasing economic engagement in the Asia-Pacific region reflects President Obama's priorities for the United States as the APEC host for 2011, which included strengthening regional economic integration and expanding trade, promoting green growth, and advancing regulatory cooperation and convergence.

Six conference sessions covered a broad range of sustainable building topics from the manufacture to the export of green products and materials. Ten economies sent speakers: Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Chinese Taipei, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore and the United States.

U.S. government agencies presenting at the program were: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), and the Department of Commerce.

Private-sector representation included associations representing the building industry and codes and standards developing organizations such as ASTM International; American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE); American Wood Council; Construction Specifications Institute (CSI); International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO); International Code Council (ICC); National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC); and UL Environment.

The conference was part of the "Sustainability in Building Construction (Commercial Buildings) - Efficiency and Conservation" project, overseen by the U.S. Department of Commerce and ASTM International to build awareness and promote participation in developing the technical requirements that will facilitate trade in the sustainable construction of commercial buildings. A further aspect of the project concerns uniformity in measuring claims regarding sustainable products and systems. Other outputs of the project include case studies and a second conference planned for later in the year.

The project began with a survey of the APEC member economies to establish a baseline of information on the regulation, standards and trade of sustainable commercial construction today. The survey was co-sponsored by AHRI, the Aluminum Association, ICC and IAPMO. In addition, support from NFRC helped to realize the event. Results of the survey were presented at the workshop and will be posted online.

The Green Buildings and Growth workshop provided a practical landscape for all stakeholders in the Asia-Pacific region to be in communication. Creating an early dialogue on standards under development before governments proceed in adopting codes and regulations reduces the potential for technical barriers to trade in the green building construction arena.

For more information on the APEC 2011, visit www.apec2011.gov.