The National Electrical Manufacturers Association
(NEMA) welcomed the March 21 notification to Congress by U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman of the Obama administration’s intention to enter into plurilateral negotiations under the auspices of the World Trade Organization (WTO). These negotiations are aimed at eliminating customs tariffs on a wide range of environmental goods.
In January, a new initiative to open trade in these goods was announced in hopes of building on the success of a similar but narrower agreement among Asia-Pacific nations in 2012. In his June 2013 Climate Change Action Plan, President Obama called for negotiation of an international accord toward global free trade in environmental goods, including clean energy technologies.
Froman, who met with the NEMA Board of Governors on March 13, discussed the upcoming talks with board members.
“I congratulate President Obama and USTR Froman on this important initiative,” said NEMA President and CEO Evan R. Gaddis. “I look forward to working with them on behalf of our member companies, including those that manufacture Smart Grid and energy-efficient equipment, to build support on Capitol Hill and around the world.”
In letters to Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Froman cited that while U.S. tariffs on environmental goods are “relatively low...some WTO members apply tariffs as high as 35 percent on these products.”
“Given a fair opportunity,” Froman wrote, “U.S. companies will be able to compete and succeed in this dynamic global market.”
WTO members that have agreed to launch the negotiations with the U.S. are Australia, Canada, China, Costa Rica, the European Union, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, and Taiwan.
Any agreement to lower or eliminate U.S. tariffs on environmental goods would require passage of legislation by Congress. As a starting point, the new initiative takes a 2012 agreement among nations of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum to cap their customs tariffs at five percent on a list of 54 environmental goods.
NEMA is the association of electrical equipment and medical imaging manufacturers, founded in 1926 and headquartered in Rosslyn, Virginia. Nearly 400 members strong, its companies manufacture a diverse set of products including power transmission and distribution equipment, lighting systems, factory automation and control systems, and medical diagnostic imaging systems. Total U.S. shipments for electroindustry products exceed $100 billion annually.