Remarks by United States Trade Representative Michael Froman Announcing New Talks Towards Increased Trade in Environmental Goods

January 24, 2014
Davos, Switzerland

*As Prepared for Delivery*

 “Thank you for being here.  Over the last two decades, environmental issues have become an increasingly important part of the international trade agenda. Certainly in our bilateral trade agreements and regional agreements, and at the WTO, we believe that environmental agreements are absolutely critical to further efforts to liberalize trade. So I am excited to be here today with my colleagues to announce our continued commitment to liberalize trade in environmental goods. On behalf of the U.S. I would like to make a couple of introductory remarks, and then read the joint statement, and then ask some of my fellow ministers to speak as well.

“President Obama announced his support of free trade in environmental goods as part of his Climate Action Plan last year, because he believes that by eliminating tariffs on renewable and clean energy technologies, we can make them cheaper and more accessible for everyone, and support our efforts to combat climate change.  

“Global trade in environmental goods totals nearly a trillion dollars annually, and some countries apply tariffs as high as 35 percent. The countries here today launching this initiative represent 86 percent of the global market in those products.  We worked with many in this room today when we chaired with APEC leaders meeting in 2011 to reduce tariffs on environmental goods, and our successful efforts at APEC have created momentum, and a foundation on which we are committed to build.

“Our announcement here today is just the beginning, and in the coming weeks and months we will be consulting closely with our stakeholders, including our Congress, business, and environmental communities, to ensure that such an agreement advances our environmental objectives, and supports economic growth, green jobs, and innovation. We look forward to working together and encourage others to join with us in a similar agreement to liberalize trade and environmental protection along the way. The door is wide open, and everyone stands to benefit as we launch this initiative.

“Here is the joint statement, and copies will be handed out to you.

‘We the representatives of Australia; Canada; China; Costa Rica; the European Union; Hong Kong, China; Japan; Korea; New Zealand; Norway; Singapore; Switzerland; Chinese Taipei; and the United States welcome Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ agreement to explore opportunities in the World Trade Organization (WTO) to build on its ground-breaking commitment to reduce tariffs on the APEC List of Environmental Goods by the end of 2015. So today, we announce our commitment to achieve global free trade in environmental goods, and pledge to work together, and with other WTO Members similarly committed to liberalization, to begin preparing for negotiations in order to advance this shared goal.

We are convinced that one of the most concrete, immediate contributions that the WTO and its Members can make to protect our planet is to seek agreement to eliminate tariffs for goods that we all need to protect our environment and address climate change.

We anticipate a structure for an environmental goods agreement that would reinforce the rules-based multilateral trading system and benefit all WTO Members, including by involving all major traders and applying the principle of Most Favored Nation. Such an agreement would take effect once a critical mass of WTO Members participates.

Our work will build upon APEC Leaders’ commitment to reduce tariffs on the APEC List of 54 Environmental Goods. APEC has given us a good start, and we are committed to exploring a broad range of additional products, in the context of a future oriented agreement able to address other issues in the sector and to respond to changes in technologies in the years to come, that can also directly and positively contribute to green growth and sustainable development.

Building on the momentum created by the agreement reached in Bali, we strongly believe that this effort in the WTO will add impetus and energy to the multilateral trading system and support its mission to liberalize trade, and make a significant contribution to the international environmental protection agenda, including our shared efforts in the ongoing United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations to combat climate change and transition to a green economy.’

“At this time, I would like to welcome Marie Gabrielle [Ineichen-Fleisch of Switzerland] to give brief remarks.”