Two recent articles of interest

Before I make another more analytical post on the multilateral trade-climate negotiations link, I would like to interject with a tip on two articles that touch on what we have been discussing here.

The first is a brief note from New Scientist Magazine here:

This brief piece is interesting because it indicates a mainstream realization starting to take form on what is somewhat sloppily called “world environmental governance”. The writer puts great hopes indeed on Rio+20, as do all of us, but to think that a Bretton-Woods type world environmental governance structure would come out of it is perhaps a stretch. I am already seeing some signs of unwillingness to define Rio+20 too much beforehand, probably to maintain as much as possible of the aura of hope and purity that surrounds it.

The second is from the Harvard International Review here.

This is a longer piece that gives an overview of the trade & climate link as it stands right now according to the authors. The authors themselves are from the Brookings institution, which I have a lot of respect for. However, as tends to be the case with such promethean scopes, there is not much depth, though most of the major issues are touched upon. I will recommend it however, because big picture narratives such as these can be very helpful in making sense of trade & climate issues.

I am again heartened here that more and more authors are more fully acknowledging the importance of the political undertones that run through trade & climate issues. I just have to make three clarifications on points that I would have put a bit differently.

First, the Canada vs. Japan renewable energy case, ds 412, that is currently ongoing in the WTO is not exactly the “war on renewable energy” that you might think it is from reading the article. It is primarily a battle over what is called “local content requirements”, meaning that the Ontario feed-in-tariff has a requirement that for building the renewable energy capacity stated by law, a certain amount of locally produced goods and services must be used. This is hardly a war on renewable energy as such, and local content requirements can be trade distorting whatever they happen to deal with. This case is very helpful and interesting to follow, but let’s avoid getting too dramatic about its implications.

Second, much of the article deals with Environmental Goods and Services in the Doha negotiations. As I said in a few posts back, you could fully liberalize every one of the products on the EGS list and it would hardly make a dent in the problem that is climate change. I felt this was not made quite clear by the article. It is very helpful and positive that these products are in the Doha Round, but it is also important to keep the big picture clear on what these negotiations actually mean in the larger scheme of things.

Third, the discussion on barriers to trade in environmental goods is a bit antiquated with its clear focus on “market access for market access” type trade opening. Tariffs are of course very important in trade negotiations, but the “new breed” of trade negotiations looks to have its eyes just as much on Non-Tariff Barriers (NTB), especially for things like EGS. Things like IP and other avenues for creating a better business climate can be just as important as tariffs, which would have been good to discuss a bit more. I highly recommend a piece by professor Richard Baldwin who has written a policy insight on the move where “market access for market access” type trade negotiations is giving way to “market access for domestic reform” type negotiations. Highly interesting for anyone who wants to understand the new trade landscape and can be found here.

I will post the final part of my trade-climate link discussion series tomorrow. 

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