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Green trade negotiations begin

GENEVA: The U.S. and 13 other World Trade Organisation (WTO) members, accounting for 86 percent of global trade in environmental goods, have begun negotiations on a new Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA).

In 2013 the U.S. exported US$106 billion of environmental goods in a market currently valued at nearly US$1 trillion.

The EGA aims to eliminate tariffs on environmental technologies such as wind turbines, water treatment filters, and solar water heaters. Current tariffs can be as high as 35 percent.

Wind turbine bladeThe other countries taking part are Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Costa Rica, the European Union, Hong Kong China, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, the Republic of Korea and Switzerland.

WTO director-General Roberto Azevêdo commented: "Above and beyond the economic benefits that enhanced trade in environmental goods will deliver, we remain conscious of the positive role that trade can play in environmental protection. The topic of environmental protection is of utmost importance in the WTO and the liberalization of environmental goods is also a significant element of negotiations under the Doha Development Agenda."

The WTO participants said the new talks are aimed at promoting green growth and sustainable development while providing impetus for the conclusion of the Doha Round.

The EGA negotiations will build on a list of 54 environmental goods the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum put together in 2012 to reduce import tariffs to five percent or less by the end of 2015. They include solar panels, gas and wind turbines; wastewater treatment; air pollution controls; solid and hazardous waste treatment machinery; and environmental monitoring and assessment equipment.

The WTO says the first phase of the negotiations will be focused on eliminating tariffs or Customs duties on a wide range of environmental goods, while a second phase could address non-tariff barriers and environmental services.

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