By Lee Anderson, Director of Legislation and Policy for the BlueGreen Alliance.
For the last year and a half, while much of the world has been focused on two of the largest international trade agreements ever proposed—the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)—the United States has been simultaneously working on an under-the-radar trade agreement with a seemingly benign title, the Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA). Working with 13 other World Trade Organization (WTO) members, the U.S., to hear the U.S. Trade Representative’s office tell it, has simply been negotiating the EGA in order to remove tariffs on hundreds of items deemed to be “environmental goods.”
So, what’s wrong with that, you ask? After all, wouldn’t it be great if environmentally beneficial things like clean energy technologies could be traded around the world as easily as possible? Well, maybe, but first we’d all have to agree what is meant by that innocent sounding term: environmental good. For instance, would you consider a yacht to be an environmental good? How about bulldozers, lasers or, my personal favorite, human blood? All those things, and many, many more items of uncertain relation to the environment are on a lengthy list of goods slated for inclusion in the EGA and, as a result, a removal of tariffs on their trade.