"The Latest Watershed You Never Heard Of"

"The Latest Watershed You Never Heard Of"

It's not often these days that the U.S. and EU agree on something related to the environment.But last November they did come together to issue a joint proposal to "Liberalize Trade in Environmental Goods and Services."  At its heart initially is a tier of 43 products — including some turbine, generator, motor, static converter and meter products — originally cited in a recent world bank report, with additional "Tier 2" items to be added where there is a consensus among participating governments.

There's much to like about a proposal that would greatly facilitate access to latest technology environmental products. And it doesn't just play to U.S. industry strengths, since the truth is that the range of developed and developing economies are putting out these goods. Indeed, in 2006 (the latest year for which figures are available) this country actually ran a significant trade deficit of approximately $5.5 vs. $9 billion for the NEMA scope products involved.

So why hasn't this joint proposal garnered more attention? The reasons include:

*The fact that it was made within the context of floundering World Trade Organization negotiations. Officials concede that this need not be the case, but a big push is on now to broker a deal to complete the current WTO round. But should the WTO route fail, the proposal will be pursued on its own — though the goal of getting as many countries as possible to sign on will still be difficult.

*The source, since many have written off the current U.S. Administration without looking at the merits of the proposal itself.

*A continuing overemphasis on Kyoto and cutting economic activity vs. increasing economic activity in more environmentally-friendly goods.

And it turns out that, whether the joint proposal flies or not, the U.S. has adopted a whole raft of new energy efficiency standards — for light bulbs, buildings, and much else — that will be requiring this country to buy large amounts of more efficient equipment in the years ahead. This continues a course in recent years that shows us doing a lot more on the energy front relative to other countries — that may have signed some nice treaties but haven't necessarily followed through so well in practice — than we're often given credit for.

Be all this as it may, you hopefully will be hearing a bit more about the U.S.-EU joint proposal, and it deserves to be taken more seriously.

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