Undue haste

US hard-sells environmental goods at WTO meeting

Published: Monday 31 May 2004

that the us is in a hurry to sell its environmental goods was evident at the special session of the World Trade Organization's (wto) Committee on Trade and Environment (cte). The meeting was held in Geneva on April 19.

The us has, in fact, evinced a keen interest in speeding up negotiations on a set of goods that are beneficial to its economy ever since wto's Cancun deliberations in September 2003. In July 2003, it had proposed that environmental goods be delineated in two categories: a core list of goods that everyone agrees to be 'environmental' (typically, sewage treatment equipment and products that the North-based countries hold a technological grip over); and a second complementary list of other proposed environmental goods. The us suggested that tariffs on the core list of goods should be eliminated by 2010. It further proposed that in the same year, countries must be required to liberalise a certain percentage of products from the complementary list.

The us resubmitted this proposal at the recent meet, as it had not been discussed in the cte's previous session in July 2003. But developing countries seemed keen to battle it out. They alleged that the us list focused on industrial products exported primarily by developed countries. They asked for more information on possible special and differential treatment meted out to goods in the core and complementary lists. Even as the us promised to return with answers at cte's next session in Geneva on June 21-22, China said at the meet that it was considering formulating its own list. Clearly, discussions are bound to become heated as countries fight over the us $550 billion environmental goods market.

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