Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb announced in January 2014 that Australia would join a number of other members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to negotiate a plurilateral agreement to remove tariffs on a range of environmental goods. The global market for environmental goods was estimated to be worth US$1 trillion when negotiations were launched in 2014, and is expected to expand to around US$3 trillion by 2020. Examples of environmental goods include solar panels, wind turbines and water management technologies. Australia’s exports of environmental goods in 2014-15 were estimated at $1.5 billion, and imports at $8.7 billion.
In addition to Australia, WTO members currently participating in these negotiations are Canada, China, Costa Rica, the European Union, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Switzerland, Chinese Taipei, Turkey and the United States.
Removing tariffs on a wide range of environmental goods will benefit the Australian economy. This is an innovative sector, and a growing number of Australian firms are finding niche markets in several overseas markets, using cutting-edge technology and unique Australian innovation. Removing tariffs would help reduce costs for Australian industries and exporters, and give them better access to this significant and fast growing global sector. It will spur further Australian innovation and facilitate new investment in climate and clean energy technologies in Australia.
Eliminating tariffs would make environmental goods cheaper and more accessible. It would contribute to creating a cleaner environment and improve access to safe water, sanitation and clean energy. This initiative complements the Government’s broader efforts to promote green growth and sustainable development.
The goods under negotiation address a wide range of environmental issues. They include equipment for air pollution control, solid and hazardous waste management, environmental remediation and clean-up, cleaner and renewable energy, energy and resource efficiency, wastewater management and water treatment, noise and vibration abatement, environmental monitoring, analysis and assessment, and ‘environmentally-preferable’ products.
The negotiating parties aim to build on the APEC list of 54 environmental goods agreed by APEC Leaders in 2012 , and expand on this list to include additional goods which are the product of rapidly changing technologies in the environment sector.
The negotiations are important in reinforcing the rules-based multilateral trading system by: being open to all WTO members; extending tariff elimination to all WTO members; and only coming into force when a critical mass of global trade in covered environmental goods is reached. The negotiations bring together WTO Members which already account for around 85-90 per cent of global trade in environmental goods. The agreement will be open to any country that shares the aim of promoting free trade in environmental products.
On 8 July 2014 participating WTO members released the 'Joint Statement Regarding the Launch of the Environmental Goods Agreement Negotiations.' The Statement marked the start of negotiations on the goods to be included for tariff elimination.
Thirteen negotiating rounds have now been held. The first round (9-10 July 2014) focused on setting the negotiation framework. At its conclusion, the parties produced an official statement summarising key outcomes. During the second round (22-26 September 2014) the parties discussed a possible list of product categories of environmental goods, and held more detailed discussions on two specific categories, namely air pollution control and solid and hazardous waste management. This included an initial information exchange on the types of products that could be included under these two categories. The parties also explored ways to build on the APEC list. The outcomes of the second round were summarised in a Chair’s statement for the 23 October WTO Committee on Trade and Environment.
At the Third Round (1-5 December 2014) the parties considered the wastewater management and water treatment, environmental remediation and noise and vibration abatement sectors. The fourth Round (26-30 January 2015) considered cleaner and renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors. The January round agreed on a deadline of 1 April 2015 for final product nominations and welcomed Israel as a new EGA member. The fifth round (16-20 March 2015) considered the environmental monitoring, analysis and assessment; ‘environmentally-preferable’ products; and resource efficiency sectors. The fifth round also welcomed Iceland and Turkey as new EGA members.
The sixth (4-8 May 2015), seventh (15-19 June 2015) eighth (27-31 July 2015), ninth (16-22 September 2015), tenth (29 October - 4 November) and eleventh (31 November - 5 December) rounds considered all goods nominated and involved more focused negotiations aimed at reaching agreement on the goods to be included for tariff elimination.
A Chair’s statement on 14 December 2015, for the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi, highlighted the progress that has been achieved in the eleven negotiation rounds over eighteen months. EGA members reconvened on 2-4 March 2016 and agreed on further work to keep the negotiations on the path towards conclusion. At the most recent round (18-22 April), negotiators continued work to resolve outstanding issues and exchanged information about more sensitive products, including those for which tariff elimination would need to be gradual. The next EGA round will take place in the week of 20 June.
A detailed Trade Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA) on the Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA) was published on 19 April 2016. The assessment, conducted by Development Solutions and funded by the European Commission, concludes that an ambitious EGA will have significant positive environmental, economic and social impacts.
Consultations and Public Outreach
The opportunity to nominate additional environmental goods as part of this EGA negotiation has closed. We remain interested however in receiving supplementary information concerning environmental goods nominated earlier, or environmental goods and services that could be considered in any future review of the EGA. Contact details are:
Phone: 02 6261 1537
Below is the list of stakeholders which provided submissions during the consultations, held in 2014. Copies of submissions are attached where interested parties have provided permission for their public release. At the request of the provider some of these submissions have had sensitive commercial-in-confidence information removed.