On July 8, 2014, the United States and 13 other Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO), including China, launched the first round of negotiations on the Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA) in Geneva, Switzerland. Together these countries have a serious stake in the future of the green energy market, as they account for 86 percent of the global trade in environmental goods. Although outside the auspices of the WTO, these negotiations aim for an agreement to be applied to all WTO Members on a Most-Favored-Nation (MFN) basis. American companies face multiple barriers to fair economic competition in the environmental goods sector, including high tariffs and unfair dumping and subsidization of imported goods, though the negotiations will focus solely on eliminating tariffs. The trade barriers faced by American exporters, however, are not unique as environmental goods have been at the center of trade wars among the United States, China, the European Union, and others.
The focus of the negotiations is to eliminate tariffs, which can be as high as 35 percent, on environmental technologies. While significant progress has been made already in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation context, with promises to cut tariffs on 54 environmental goods to 5 percent or less by 2015, the United States negotiators hope to expand the products list to additional products. The Obama Administration hopes that the negotiations will not only level the playing field for U.S. manufacturers seeking to sell environmental technologies abroad but also help support general U.S. trade and environmental goals.