Liberalizing trade in environmental goods and services back to top
Ministers agreed to negotiate freer trade
on environmental goods and services through the reduction or elimination
of tariffs and non-tariff barriers. Examples of environmental goods
and services are catalytic converters, air filters or consultancy
services on wastewater management.
At the Trade and Environment Committee’s first
special session, in March 2002, members agreed that the bargaining should
take place in the Services Council’s negotiating “special session” and
in the Negotiating Group on Market Access for Non-Agricultural Products.
However, the Trade and Environment Committee’s special sessions would
oversee those negotiations. And they would try to clarify the concept
of what are environmental goods. In the discussion, some members have
referred to the lists of environmental goods used by the Organization
for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Asia Pacific
Economic Cooperation forum (APEC).
Currently, several delegations have
tabled lists of what they consider environmental goods. These include
products to manage pollution or products to manage natural resources.
Some lists also include environmentally preferable products, which
have a lesser impact on the environment in their end-use than alternative
equivalents. The most ambitious lists also cover goods which are more
environmentally friendly in their production, such as organic fruit
There are elements of convergence among these
lists but there are also fundamental divergences. One of them is the
issue of process
and production method (PPM). A majority of members believe that goods
should not be considered environmental because of the way they have
processed or produced. These members say that it is WTO inconsistent
to discriminate between products based on PPM. For developing countries,
the use of PPM is equated with richer countries attempting to impose
their environmental and socials standards on the rest of the world.
members have included environmentally preferable products in their
lists but most have been cautious to narrow the concept down to end-use
or disposal characteristics. In general, there are divergences on how
ambitious the list should be. Some members would like to work on
environmental goods, while others would like to see a broader list.
Alternatively, some members advocate a different approach to the
list: the environmental
project approach, introduced by India, would give access to environmental
goods and services under a specific project for a finite period
of time. The project would have to be approved by a national authority.
Identifying trade obligations back to top
There are approximately 200 multilateral environmental
agreements in place today. Only about 20 of these contain trade provisions.
For example, the Montreal Protocol for the protection of the ozone layer
applies restrictions on the production, consumption and export of aerosols
containing chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). The Basel Convention, which controls
trade or transportation of hazardous waste across international borders,
and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)
are other multilateral environmental agreements that contain trade provisions.
negotiations aim to clarify the relationship between trade measures
taken under the environmental agreements and WTO rules. However, in practice,
so far no action taken under a MEA has been challenged in the GATT-WTO
Two approaches: actual obligations and broader
Members started the negotiations by attempting
to define what a “specific trade obligation” is, and to develop a common
understanding on this. Some members advocate identifying individual “specific
trade obligations” that the WTO should examine. Others prefer a more
general approach that would look at the principles governing the relationship
between the WTO and the environmental agreements, and how the environmental
agreements’ trade measures might be accommodated in the WTO. Some advocate
the principle that there should be no “hierarchical” relationship between
the two legal regimes with neither the WTO nor the environmental agreements
The Trade and Environment Committee’s special sessions
are following both approaches
at the same time.
By mid-2004 members were looking at the issue
of national coordination in the negotiation and implementation of multilateral
environmental agreements. Several delegations presented their national
experience. They talked about mechanisms at home to coordinate between
different governmental bodies, including between trade and environment
ministries. They also presented the processes through which conflicting
views were reconciled, the way stakeholders were consulted and the way
MEA implementing legislation was developed.
Exchanging information back to top
Ministers agreed in Doha to negotiate procedures
to facilitate the information exchange between the secretariats of multilateral
environmental agreements (MEAs) and the WTO. Currently, the Trade and
Environment Committee holds information sessions once or twice a year
with the different secretariats of the environmental agreements to discuss
the trade-related provisions and their dispute settlement mechanisms.
The Trade and Environment Committee’s special sessions have also the
mandate to negotiate on criteria for the granting of observer status
to MEA secretariats. The aim is to guarantee their participation and
strengthen the complementarities between their work and that of the WTO.