EU launches negotiations on environmental trade agreement

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European Commission - IP/14/820   09/07/2014

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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 9 July 2014

EU launches negotiations on environmental trade agreement

Today the EU, together with 13 other WTO members (Australia, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong (China), Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, Singapore and the US) have formally opened plurilateral negotiations in the WTO on liberalization of trade in so-called ’green goods’.

At the first stage, the members of this initiative will aim to eliminate tariffs or customs duties on a broad list of green goods that help clean the air and water, help manage waste, are energy efficient, control air pollution, and help generate renewable energy like solar, wind, or hydroelectric. At the second stage, the negotiations could also address non-tariff barriers and environmental services. The EU is particularly interested to reduce barriers to trade in services ancillary to goods exported. E.g. to produce wind energy, it is not enough just to buy the wind turbine: companies also need to have access to the maintenance and engineering services necessary to keep it running smoothly in the world of global value chains.

EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht welcomed the opening of the negotiations: "This initiative is a win-win for the economy and the environment. It is an excellent example of how trade policy can have a positive impact on green growth, green jobs, sustainable development, and climate change. Looking beyond the obvious benefits for the planet, green trade means green growth for our companies - the world leaders in environmental technologies - and green jobs for EU citizens."

The green goods negotiations have started as planned after few months of preparations since the launch of the Green Goods Initiative in January this year. The group of WTO Members will engage now in intensive negotiations meeting regularly in Geneva and discussing the substance of the agreement, i.a. product coverage and the approach on non-tariff barriers to trade and services. The joint statement issued on this occasions highlights the need for “the timely conclusion of the agreement” given the urgency of environmental challenges, including climate change. This initiative is expected to provide impetus to the DDA negotiations.

Background

The EU has been a long-standing advocate for removing tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade in environmental goods and services in the WTO as well as in its bilateral and regional free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations.

On 24 January 2014 the EU, together with 13 other WTO members (Australia, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong (China), Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, Singapore and the US) pledged to launch negotiations to liberalise global trade in environmental goods – the so called "green goods initiative". Collectively, the group account for around 86% of the world trade in green goods.

The EU has technologically advanced and world-class companies providing environmental goods and services. There has been considerable job creation in the green sector, i.e. an increase from 3 to 4.2 million in full-time equivalents between 2002 and 2011 across the EU. Employment in the sector grew by 20% even during the recession years (2007 to 2011). In terms of trade, the EU is a world leader both in terms of export and import of environmental goods, and is followed by China and other APEC members.

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