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A New Effort to Boost Green Tech Gets Underway in Geneva

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The global business community gathered this week in Geneva to witness the launch by the United States, China, the EU and other trading partners of a process to eliminate tariffs on green technologies as a means to encourage their development and use.

An ambitious conclusion to these negotiations would be important to broad sections of the U.S. business community, including companies who produce green technologies as well as consumers of those goods. Walmart noted in a submission to the U.S. Government that a green goods agreement will result in reduced cost and wider adoption of products and technologies that advance its environmental sustainability goals.

Reflecting this importance, NFTC, along with the National Association of Manufactures, United States Council for International Business, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and other major American business groups, this week launched the Coalition for Green Trade, whose purpose is to align U.S. business interests and support the swift conclusion of an ambitious environmental goods agreement.

Other countries' private sectors are also pressing the case.

Yesterday, business representatives from Asia, Europe, and the Americas gathered in Geneva to outline their priorities for an environmental goods agreement.

In addition, more than 40 associations, representing economies from Canada to Singapore to South Africa, released a letter that calls for trade officials to negotiate swiftly an ambitious agreement to eliminate tariffs on a broad set of green goods.

This effort is a unique opportunity to improve economic and environmental outcomes. While cutting tariffs is normally seen as painful, as Costa Rica's Ambassador to the WTO Ronald Saborio Soto observed yesterday at an event hosted by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development, this agreement provides a platform for developing countries to facilitate the deployment of clean technologies.

"We see this as a win-win exercise," said Ambassador Saborio, adding, ""We approach other developing countries and try to explain that this is something that can be done by any country. It's for our own good that we do it."

Success can also demonstrate that the WTO can serve as an efficient forum where officials can negotiate meaningful new trade commitments.

There is precedent for negotiators to follow. In the 1990s, major producers of information technologies negotiated an Information Technology Agreement at the WTO, eliminating duties on products including computers, software, telecommunications equipment and semiconductors. International trade in those products has increased three-fold, to more than $4 trillion, since the agreement took effect.

"It is important to think outside of our traditional trade box," suggested Ambassador Saborio. "The point is that climate change and other environmental challenges need to be addressed now."

A version of this article first appeared in Ideas Lab.