Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Jul14/04)
9 July 2014
Third World Network
goods initiative to ‘kick off' next week
in SUNS #7836 dated 3 July 2014
Geneva, 2 Jul (Kanaga Raja) -- The WTO Committee on Trade and Environment,
at its meeting on Monday, was informed by Canada that the new initiative
launched earlier this January by a small group of WTO Members aimed
at eliminating tariffs on a broad range of environmental goods, will
"kick off" on 8 July.
Presented as an environmental initiative, the "initiative"
appears to be part of the zero-for-zero sectoral tariff negotiations
that the US had been seeking as a part of the non-agricultural market
access (NAMA) chapter of the Doha Single Undertaking. At the Hong
Kong Ministerial Conference in 2005, it was decided that these sectoral
initiatives were to be on a voluntary basis.
[Paragraph 16 of the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration states: "In
furtherance of paragraph 7 of the NAMA Framework, we recognize that
Members are pursuing sectoral initiatives. To this end, we instruct
the Negotiating Group to review proposals with a view to identifying
those which could garner sufficient participation to be realized.
Participation should be on a non-mandatory basis."]
Canada, one of the participants in the new initiative, told the Committee
meeting, under the agenda item of ‘other business', that the first
round of negotiations among this small group of countries will commence
The initiative was launched by some 14 WTO Members on the sidelines
of the World Economic Forum held in Davos earlier this January.
The countries involved in this initiative are Australia, Canada, China,
Costa Rica, the European Union, Hong Kong-China, Japan, Korea, New
Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Switzerland, Chinese Taipei and the United
In a joint statement released in Davos on 24 January 2014, the participants
in the initiative had announced their commitment "to achieve
global free trade in environmental goods."
The participants in the initiative, which they claim together to account
for 86 per cent of the global trade in environmental goods, had also
declared that their work will build upon the Asia-Pacific Economic
Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' commitment to reduce tariffs on the APEC
List of 54 Environmental Goods.
(The list of 54 environmental goods on which the APEC economies committed
to reduce applied tariff rates to 5 per cent or less by the end of
2015 include such goods ranging from steam or other vapour generating
boilers, gas turbines, solar water heaters, wind powered electric
generating equipment, filters, furnaces and ovens including waste
incinerators, waste water treatment equipment, catalytic converters
to solar cells. See SUNS #7731 dated 29 January 2014.)
At the Committee meeting on Monday, Canada said that it would keep
Members appraised on the progress in the negotiations.
According to trade officials, China, also a participant in the initiative,
said that the green goods initiative would provide impetus to the
It expressed hope that the regular transparency exercise in the Committee
on Trade and Environment would attract other Members to participate
in the initiative.
According to China, this initiative is a "win-win-win" for
trade, environment and development.
According to trade officials, China also reported that at the meeting
of APEC ministers responsible for trade that it hosted in May, the
ministers reaffirmed their commitment to implement the liberalisation
of a list of environmental goods by the end of 2015.
Ecuador said that it expected the tariff cuts resulting from this
initiative to be applied to other Members, as in the Information Technology
Peru said that the negotiations must include products of interest
to developing countries, such as organic food.
According to trade officials, Canada confirmed that the results of
the negotiations will be applied on a most-favoured-nation (MFN) basis.
The Committee also heard presentations by the European Union, Indonesia
and Ghana on their Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT)
Voluntary Partnership Agreements, trade agreements that are aimed
at curbing the practice of illegal logging and encouraging sustainable
Australia also gave a presentation on its programmes against illegal
logging, while Switzerland and the US expressed support for the campaign
against the trade in illegally-cut logs.
According to trade officials, New Zealand reported on a recent roundtable
on fossil fuel subsidy reform that was hosted by the US and the World
It informed the Committee that the roundtable featured peer reviews
of national experiences of a number of countries and the benefits
of such a reform.
It also said that it is the coordinator of the Friends of Fossil Fuel
Subsidy Reform, a group of non-G-20 countries, which includes Denmark,
New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.
Saudi Arabia, with support from Qatar, said that this subject is a
G-20 process and that there is no linkage with the WTO.
On the other hand, New Zealand, Norway, Canada, Chile and the EU were
of the view that the Committee's mandate is sufficiently broad to
cover this subject.
The OECD gave a presentation at the Committee on labelling requirements
for environmental purposes. It said that this would have implications
on market access and international competition.
It also drew attention to the spread of self-made environmental claims,
and the possible use of labels to provide an advantage to domestic
The next meeting of the Committee is scheduled to take place on 21