EPIA backs WTO environmental free trade agreement

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Europe’s leading solar trade body the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) has backed recent efforts by the World Trade Organization (WTO) to liberalize trade in environmental goods and services.

The EPIA’s CEO James Watson wrote this week that “mutually agreed settlements are much more efficient than punitive tariff introduction”, as the trade body calls for free and fair trade between bilateral trading partners.

Current negotiations between the WTO, its member countries and various industry bodies center on an environmental goods agreement designed to erode the tendency for the solar industry to impose tariffs on products imported from overseas.

The EPIA’s Watson argues that trade liberalization would spur growth in the solar industry and "enable a price reduction of environmental goods, including solar panels" that would stimulate business opportunities throughout the value chain.

Recent disputes between the U.S., China and Taiwan have echoed previous trade spats that arose between the EU and China, with India also recently exploring the possibility of introducing anti-dumping tariffs in order to protect its domestic solar industry. However, Watson affirms that the EPIA’s preferred stance is one of negotiated agreements between bilateral trading partners, calling this approach the "most effective way" of dealing with disputes and supporting free trade.

"Punitive tariffs are not in the interest of the European solar industry and are not the right way to go for ensuring growth in the solar sector," Watson added.

The WTO is seeking an alternative to the current tit-for-tat approach. EPIA stresses that, while uncertainty around how that alternative may take shape abounds, global industry cooperation and dialogue is the only viable path for solar’s growth, in Europe and beyond.