WTO states seek early 'green' deal ahead of climate summit

A bid to free up trade in environmental goods and services gained new momentum Tuesday at a WTO meeting, with some nations calling for a deal ahead of a major climate summit in Copenhagen.

An early accord could also act as a much-needed stimulus for negotiations on a broader global trade pact that are currently stalled, said trade ministers gathered at a meeting of 153 WTO member states in Geneva.

"Some like-minded nations, including Japan, are considering conducting discussions with a view to achieving an early agreement to liberalise trade in environmental goods," Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Masayuki Naoshima told the meeting.

"I hope that other interested members will join these discussions, and provide fresh impetus to the (Doha) Round as a whole," he added.

The United States and several other nations also backed the push for an early deal.

Launched in 2001, the Doha Round of trade liberalisation negotiations is deadlocked because of disagreements between developed and developing nations over the level of cuts on farm subsidies and industrial product tariffs.

Japanese Trade Minister Masayuki Naoshima delivers a speech on the second day of a WTO ministerial conference in Geneva.

Liberalising trade in environmental goods and services is part of Doha talks, and ministers argued that as climate change was high on the political agenda, it was an opportune moment to intensify negotiations on lowering tariffs on technologies that help offset the effects of global warming.

"It's riding with the political wave ... This is just elementary common sense," Tim Groser, New Zealand trade minister said during a forum on the sidelines of the World Trade Organization meeting.

World leaders are set to gather over December 7-18 in Copenhagen to draft a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

"With momentum building to advance climate change policies, we must show, through concrete actions, that trade is an important part of policies to combat climate change," Naoshima said.

Two major players, the United States and the European Union, said work should be intensified to forge the agreement on environmental goods and services.

"We fully support fast-tracking action in the WTOs work on liberalizing trade in climate-friendly technologies," US Trade Representative Ron Kirk told a working session of the ministerial conference.

Meanwhile, outgoing European Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton also pledged the EU's engagement on the issue.

"Trade policy can make a significant contribution, through the liberalisation of trade in relevant environmental goods and services," she said on Monday.

"We in Europe invite all members of the WTO to intensify work in this area," added Ashton, who took up her new post as EU Foreign Policy chief on Tuesday.

However, Indonesian trade minister Mari Pangestu stressed the importance of financing to developing countries preparing to deal with the effects of climate change.

"Lowering tariffs on clean technology is not going to be enough ... to address the climate change objective," she said.

"From a developing country perspective, we also need to have financing and capacity building," she added.

India, China and other growing developing nations have been pressing for Western nations to offer technology and other support to help them reduce the intensity of emissions blamed for global warming.

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