Last June, President Obama unveiled his Climate Action Plan to combat climate change through domestic and international action. In his Georgetown speech announcing the plan, the President directed his Administration to “launch negotiations toward global free trade in environmental goods and services, including clean energy technology, to help more countries skip past the dirty phase of development and join a global low-carbon economy.” This week, the United States and like-minded trading partners took an important step in pushing forward this initiative, which will support green jobs here at home and level the playing field for our exporters abroad.
Today the United States announced plans for a new initiative with 13 other partner countries – find the list here – to eliminate tariffs on environmental goods in the World Trade Organization (WTO). The countries participating in today’s announcement account for 86 percent of global trade in environmental goods, such as such as solar water heaters, wind turbines, and catalytic converters.
Eliminating tariffs on renewable and clean energy technologies can make them cheaper and more accessible for everyone. Tariffs add unnecessary costs to the technologies needed to fight pollution and protect the environment, such as water filtration and renewable energy technologies. Total global trade in environmental goods totals nearly $955 billion annually, and some countries currently apply tariffs as high as 35 percent.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said, “Our announcement here today is just the beginning, and in the coming weeks and we will be consulting closely with our stakeholders, including our Congress, business and environmental communities, to ensure that such an agreement advances our environmental objectives and supports economic growth, green jobs and innovation.”
This WTO initiative will build on the initiative that started with the President’s leadership at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Honolulu in 2011 and continued into 2012, when APEC leaders committed to cut tariffs on a list of 54 environmental goods to five percent or less by 2015. The negotiations will be open to any WTO member that shares a similar commitment to trade liberalization and environmental protection.
With today’s announcement, the U.S. demonstrates its ongoing leadership in addressing climate change and the importance of cooperation with other major emitting countries, including China, to confront these global challenges together in a way that protects the environment and promotes economic growth.