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World Trade Organization

The Administration has continued and enhanced its efforts to address environmental objectives through multilateral, regional, and bilateral trade initiatives.

Multilatterally, the United States has been a global leader in seeking to discipline harmful fisheries subsidies and to eliminate barriers to trade in environmental technologies and services, including clean energy technologies, through the World Trade Organization (WTO) as part of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) round of negotiations.

The Doha Round Environment Mandates: WTO Firsts


High levels of overcapacity and over fishing worldwide are a problem of global concern - too many boats chasing too few fish.

It is generally agreed that high levels of government subsidies worldwide contribute significantly to the problem. The fisheries subsidies negotiations thus offer the WTO an historic opportunity to contribute to solutions that benefit trade, the environment and sustainable development.

With strong U.S. support, WTO Members are negotiating an agreement to "clarify and improve WTO disciplines on fisheries subsidies, taking into account the importance of this sector to developing countries." (Doha Ministerial Declaration, paragraph 28)

This is the first time that environmental considerations -- in addition to trade concerns -- have led to the launch of a trade negotiation.

At the Hong Kong Ministerial meeting in December 2005, Ministers further noted the broad agreement that new disciplines should include "the prohibition of certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and over-fishing" (Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration, Annex D, paragraph 9)

In the WTO Rules Negotiating Group, the United States is a leader in pressing for stronger fisheries subsidies rules, including through a prohibition of the most harmful subsidies.

In 2007, the U.S. contributed a detailed proposal for text of a fisheries subsidies agreement, many elements of which are reflected in a November 2007 text issued by the Chair of the Rules Negotiating Group.

In August of 2008, the United States, with Australia and New Zealand, submitted an paper providing an overview re-affirming their commitment to a high level of ambition in the negotiations.

In December 2008, the Chair issued a "roadmap" to guide further fisheries subsidies discussions.

US WTO Fisheries Subsidies Proposal

US Overview Paper on Fisheries Subsidies with (Australia and New Zealand)

Chair's Negotiating Text

Chair's Roadmap for Fisheries Subsidies Discussions

Committee on Trade and Environment (Special Session)

The 2001 WTO Ministerial Conference at Doha resulted in first ever mandates that promote both trade and environment objectives. A "Special Session" of the Committee on Trade and Environment (CTESS) was established and charged with negotiations, without prejudging their outcome, in three areas:

  • Relationships between existing WTO rules and specific trade obligations (STOs) set out in Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) (with the negotiations limited to the applicability of existing WTO rules among parties to such MEAs and without prejudice to the WTO rights of Members that are not parties to the MEAs in question);

  • Procedures for regular information exchange between MEA secretariats and relevant WTO committees, and the criteria for granting observer status; and

  • The reduction or, as appropriate, elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade in environmental goods and services.

The United States is active on all aspects of the CTESS's trade and environment negotiating agenda.  In particular, the United States is a leading advocate for liberalization of trade in environmental goods and services, including through a joint proposal with the European Communities that lays the groundwork for an innovative new agreement on environmental goods and services (EGSA) and action to eliminate trade barriers to climate-friendly technologies and services.

The United States believes that increased market access for environmental goods and services is an effective means to enhance access to environmental technologies around the world and has continued to advance pragmatic ideas for product coverage and modalities in negotiations on environmental goods.

WTO Committee on Trade and Environment

The WTO Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE) was created by the WTO General Council on January 31, 1995, pursuant to the Marrakesh Ministerial Decision on Trade and Environment.

Since then, the CTE has discussed many important issues, with a focus on those identified in the Doha Declaration. These issues include:

  • Market access associated with environmental measures [sub-paragraph 32(i)];

  • Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement and the environment [sub-paragraph 32(ii)]; labeling for environmental purposes [sub-paragraph 32(iii)];

  • Capacity-building and environmental reviews (paragraph 33); and discussion of the environmental aspects of the Doha negotiations (paragraph 51).

These issues identified in the Doha Declaration are separate from those that are subject to specific negotiating mandates are being taken up by the Committee on Trade and Environment Special Session (CTESS). With respect to the Doha round trade and environment agenda that does not specifically involve negotiations, the United States plays an active role, particularly through emphasizing the importance of capacity-building.

This work includes discussions in the CTE Regular Session with respect to the environmental implications of all areas under negotiation in the Doha round.

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More on Environment in the WTO

Dispute resolution involving environment issues