• Asbestos and jet engines on EU’s ‘green’ goods list for lower tariffs

    Sales of asbestos, airplane engines, petrol and other environmentally harmful goods will be boosted by lower tariffs from the EU and 16 other WTO countries under a draft trade deal that is actually supposed to improve access to technologies that protect the environment, it has been revealed.

    Parts for the nuclear energy industry, non-renewable biodiesels and dirty anthracite coal join cancer-causing asbestos on the list of 120 products with no environmental benefits which was leaked to sustainable transport NGO Transport & Environment (T&E). They amount to one-third of the 665-item laundry list submitted by countries party to the so-called Environmental Goods Agreement.

    The deal is intended to remove barriers to trade in environmental goods that are crucial for environmental protection, and as such it potentially can have environmental benefits. However, negotiators are not required to satisfy any definition of an environmental good or meet any selection criteria. When finalised, the 5% tariff ceiling will be legally binding on the EU’s 28 member states as well as the other 16 WTO countries, including the US, China, Japan and Canada.

    Cécile Toubeau, senior better trade officer at T&E, said: “Lowering tariffs for environmentally beneficial goods is a good idea in principle. But the draft list of goods has many items with no green impact or even the opposite. The EU and other countries need to set a clear definition and selection criteria that limit the list to environmentally sound goods.”

    There is also evidence that negotiators limited their consultations to industry representatives and excluded civil society groups and impartial non-industry experts. Negotiators invited representatives from several industry associations to present on environmental products and their components, according to the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development.

    Cécile Toubeau concluded: “These types of behind-closed door meetings demonstrate why an assessment board of independent experts, free of any industry or government, should decide on the inclusion or exclusion of goods.”