Chemical Industry on a Plurilateral Agreement on Environmental Goods

A list approach to trade liberalisation in environmental goods doesn’t work

The chemical industry, although an ardent supporter of free trade, opposes the sectoral liberalization of “environmental goods”, as it is not possible to define such goods on clear and unambiguous criteria. All attempts to define “environmental goods” multilaterally via exclusive lists have failed up to now, and all attempts have fallen short of reality as they did not encompass intermediate products.

The discussion in the WTO on liberalisation of environmental goods has been ongoing for over ten years without going anywhere. One of the reasons why the WTO has not advanced its discussions is the fact that the membership cannot agree on what environmental goods are. The discussion about tariff liberalisation for environmental goods got new impetus following the APEC meeting September 2012 in Vladivostok to pursue tariff liberalisation on a list of 54 energy-related products to 5% or less by 2015.

The chemical industry believes in free trade and is an ardent supporter of further multilateral trade liberalisation, in particular the elimination of chemical tariffs. However, because of its conceptual misconstruction and inherent discriminatory bias we consider the initiative to eliminate tariffs for environmental goods ill-founded, flawed and unpracticable.

The two-paged statement in the download section at the top of this page - made by Cefic in a hearing of the European Parliament in March 2013 - has been developed together with and is fully shared by VCI. Additionally, you will find a position paper of Cefic delivering even more explanations at the same place (PDF, 4 pages).

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Prof. Dr. Reinhard Quick