Fourteen WTO members launched plurilateral negotiations for an Environmental Goods Agreement on 8 July 2014 at the WTO. These members said the talks will promote green growth and sustainable development while providing impetus for the conclusion of the Doha Round.
The participants said the talks are open to any WTO member and that the results will be applied in accordance with the most-favoured nation principle, under which WTO members should treat their trading partners in a non-discriminatory manner. Taking part are Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Costa Rica, the European Union, Hong Kong China, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, the Republic of Korea, Switzerland and the United States, which make up 86 per cent of global environmental goods trade.
"I am pleased that a group of WTO Members have begun negotiations to liberalize trade in environmental goods. I understand that the 14 WTO Members involved in these talks account for nearly 90 per cent of world trade in the environmental goods covered by the initiative so far," said Director-General Roberto Azevêdo.
"Those involved made it clear that these negotiations on environmental goods are open to all WTO Members and that all Members would benefit from the tariff reductions that arise from any agreement. Above and beyond the economic benefits that enhanced trade in environmental goods will deliver, we remain conscious of the positive role that trade can play in environmental protection. The topic of environmental protection is of utmost importance in the WTO and the liberalization of environmental goods is also a significant element of negotiations under the Doha Development Agenda."
The talks will build on a list of 54 environmental goods put together by the APEC countries — the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum — in 2012 to reduce import tariffs to 5 per cent or less by the end of 2015. These include wind turbines, air quality monitors and solar panels. Negotiators said that they will meet regularly to discuss substance and product coverage.
The first phase of the negotiations aims to eliminate tariffs or customs duties on a wide range of environmental goods. A second phase will address the bureaucratic or legal issues that could cause hindrances to trade – known as non-tariff barriers – and environmental services, negotiators said.
These talks take place while WTO members consult with each other on how best to advance the trade and environment talks so that agreement can be reached on a work programme for early conclusion of these negotiations. Efforts to agree such a programme are part of the broader task of agreeing by December 2014 on a work programme to conclude the entire Doha Round, which was launched in the Qatari capital in 2001. Ministers mandated the year-end completion of the Doha work programme at the December 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference.