India is monitoring the World Trade Organisation’s efforts to place environment at the center of trade discussions. This move has been strongly opposed by India. Three environment-related initiatives were co-sponsored by around 80 member nations. On Wednesday, they stated that they would work to improve trade and trade rules to address these problems.
The WTO seems to also support the initiative, with Director-General Ngozi Okonjo Iweala joining ministers representing countries that support it in welcoming the initiatives.
The WTO supports the three initiatives: the Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussions TESSD, the Informal Dialogue on Plastics Pollution and Sustainable Plastics Trade IDP, and Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform FFSR. They are supported by more than 80 countries, both developed and emerging.
The WTO is not authorized to intervene in national or global environmental policies. This is because the environment can be used as an instrument to impose trade restrictions that are not justified, such as the carbon tax proposed by some advanced nations. Development countries might also be forced to lower tariffs for so-called environmental goods that have multiple uses. India is against such talks, according to an official monitoring the matter. BusinessLine.
Carbon border tax
Already, the EU has announced plans to impose a carbon border tax on imported products from countries with less stringent climate policies. This will be phased in from 2026. The US is also proposing to do the same. Developed countries have tried to persuade developing nations to lower tariffs on so called environment friendly goods, such as parts for an effluent treatment facility. However, these parts could also be used in other ways.
Experts believe that making environment a part WTO trade negotiations could give legitimacy to unilateral trade barriers and market expansion efforts.
These are not only illegal but also an attempt by rich countries to impose conditions on developing countries and push their so-called environmentally friendly goods and service into our markets. Ranja Sengupta, Third World Network, stated that these are just such attempts by rich countries. She said that developed nations should support developing countries through technology transfer and finance if they are so concerned about the environment.
WTO and trade are key to addressing climate change and environmental degradation. This was the message that I conveyed to COP26 in Glasgow a few months ago, according to the WTO DG.
The DG pointed out, however, that it was 1994 when leaders adopted the first decision to recognize the mutual support of international commerce and environmental action and created WTO Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE).
It is important to remember that the CTE was founded on the principle that the WTO was only competent to regulate trade.
CTE outlines that the WTO’s sole task is to investigate questions that arise when environmental policy has a significant impact trade. Members do not want the WTO to interfere in national or global environmental policies or to establish environmental standards. These tasks are best performed by other agencies that specialize in environmental issues.