China, US pledge to remove green goods tariffs


The latest solar trade row erupting overnight between the U.S. Department of Commerce and manufacturers in China and Taiwan will have made for an interesting round of green goods trade talks at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos today.

A triumphantly-worded media advisory from the EU today trumpeted a pledge by the European Union and 12 fellow World Trade Organization (WTO) members to launch WTO talks aimed at removing trade barriers for a list of 54 ‘green goods.’

The list of goods for which it is hoped all tariffs and other trade barriers will be removed includes solar cells – whether or not made up into modules – as well as inverters.

With delegates from China, Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei and the U.S. involved in today’s pledge, last night’s decision by the U.S. Department of Commerce to open anti dumping (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) investigations into Chinese and Taiwanese-made modules incorporating Taiwanese cells will ensure any negotiations at the WTO will be far from straightforward.

China’s response to the impending U.S. investigations was to bolster the duties it applies to polysilicon manufactured in the U.S. and South Korea, another one of the signatories to the green goods pledge today which was hailed so enthusiastically as a breakthrough by EU trade commissioner Karel de Gucht.

De Gucht, of course, at least has form in finding common ground, having negotiated the minimum module price and import cap for Chinese modules sold in the EU.

India would add spice to talks

With fellow green goods signatories Canada and Japan also involved in solar trade complaints at some stage, it only needs India to heed de Gucht’s call for more WTO members to join the talks for the resulting discussions to have a particularly spiky knap hand of solar disputants.

The announcement of the WTO promise, at a meeting held on the margins of the WEF, did not specify when talks to remove the barriers on green goods will take place as the negotiators bid to build on progress made on the subject at the ninth WTO ministerial held in Bali last month.

The ideal of liberalizing trade in green goods dates back to the Doha mandate in 2001 and is one of the Doha trade pledges yet to see the light of day.

The list of ‘green goods’ was defined by heads of state at the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) agreement and the other countries which have pledged to remove barriers on such goods are Australia, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and Singapore.