The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) recently notified Congress of the administration’s intent to enter into international negotiations on an Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA). The aim of the negotiations, to be conducted under the auspices of the World Trade Organization (WTO), is to eliminate import tariffs among participating countries on products that protect the environment. USTR is requesting public comments on U.S. interests and priorities for the negotiations by May 5, 2014. Companies whose environmental goods are subject to tariffs, or might be in the future, or are hurt by or benefit from U.S. tariffs, should consider submitting comments.
On January 24, 2014, the United States and 13 other WTO members announced their intent to negotiate an agreement to eliminate tariffs on goods that are used to protect the environment or address climate change. The negotiations will be open to all 159 WTO members; the EGA will be binding on those members that become parties to it. The starting point in the negotiations will be a list of 54 environmental goods endorsed by the Asia-Pacific Environmental Cooperation (APEC) process in 2012 – ranging from biomass boilers to pollution monitoring instruments to wind turbine blades (a complete list is available on APEC’s website).
Public Comments Sought
In a March 28, 2014 Federal Register notice, USTR requested public comments on the objectives the United States should seek in the negotiations. Specifically, comments are invited on:
- Which products, in addition to the 54 on the APEC list, should be included in the EGA
- Environmental uses and benefits for products proposed for inclusion
- U.S. trading partners that are significant producers or consumers of environmental goods
- How best to insure that the EGA remains relevant in the future
After the May 5, 2014 public comment deadline, a public hearing will be held on June 5, 2014. Persons desiring to speak at the hearing must notify USTR by May 5, 2014.
Companies that export environmental goods, or might in the future, should consider submitting comments to USTR. Companies whose exported environmental goods are currently subject to tariffs imposed by importing countries should provide that information to USTR in their comments. Even companies whose exported environmental goods are not currently subject to tariffs should consider having them listed in the EGA to preempt any future imposition of tariffs by WTO members participating in the agreement. In addition, companies purchasing and using environmental goods subject to U.S. import tariffs may benefit from lowering or eliminating those tariffs, and thus may want to submit comments. Conversely, U.S. manufacturers of environmental goods that may face increased import competition due to the reduction or elimination of certain tariffs may want to submit comments as well.