TACKLING GREEN TRADE BARRIERS
Vihreän teknologian, tuotteiden ja asiantuntumuksen globaalit markkinat eivät toimi riittävän hyvin. Osastopäällikkö Jorma Korhonen (UM) kertoo avajaispuheenvuorossaan (Lahti Clentech Expo, 13.10) miksi.
Lahti, October 13, 2011
Finland is known as a country which has clean nature and where environmental issues play an important role. This is also seen in Finland’s active work in international cooperation in order to resolve environmental challenges such as mitigation of climate change. The importance of green values to Finns can also explain the activity of Finnish companies in developing cutting edge environmentally friendly and cleaner technologies.
As we know, cleantech has become an important international business sector with a global market of more than 1000 billion Euros. In Finland alone, there are about 2000 companies engaged in environmental business. The most important cleantech companies in Finland have a combined turnover of 18 billion Euros.
The important role played by environmental issues and cleantech business is very well seen in the trade policy section of Prime Minister Katainen’s new government programme. The programme stresses a level playing field and open markets for green technology, products and expertise. The programme also emphasises that all global actors should strengthen their commitment to social responsibility and compliance with international environmental standards and to ensure that international trade regulations are developed in accordance with environmental protection needs. These objectives could go a long way to reaching environmental targets and creating wellbeing also at the global level.
Global markets for green technology, products and expertise are not yet open enough. We can see this at the Foreign Ministry in our efforts to support Finnish companies in their export and import operations. We are aware of around 400 “green trade or investment barriers” i.e. problems hindering market access of cleantech products or services.
Although, most of the green trade barriers faced by Finnish companies are in markets outside the EU, there still is a small amount of problems in the internal market. The most important concrete trade barriers in the internal market concern taxes and fiscal legislation and technical trade barriers, such as suspicions that the technical product requirements applied are against EU provisions. A concrete example concerns the EU directive on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources (RES) and its criteria for biofuel. The EU Member States are currently implementing this directive into their own legislation. To guarantee that the EU’s internal market functions effectively it is important that the RES directive is implemented in a manner which does not discriminate against different biofuel sources and technologies.
In external markets, the most important barriers to environmental business are technical trade barriers, customs tariffs and other fees, customs procedures, taxes and fiscal legislation and the movement of persons. These are also the most common trade barriers encountered by Finnish companies operating in other sectors.
As concrete examples of “green trade barriers” on external market one can mention for example high export and import duties on environmental products, problems with product certification, requirements concerning the domestic content of renewable energy equipment, difficulties in the determination of the products’ customs values and trade mark infringements.
Although most of the problems in our radar screen relate to difficulties the Finnish cleantech companies encounter when they export to third countries, our objective also includes ensuring that unnecessary barriers are not imposed on imports into Finland. The importance of import related barriers is increasing. This is for example perceived in a growing number of problems in import of raw materials such as rare earths. As we know, rare earths are essential components in production of certain cleantech products. Therefore, export restrictions and price fluctuations of rare earths quickly create big challenges to production of environmental goods. For Finland it is essential that all parties refrain from measures which restrict trade in raw materials.
Our objective at the Foreign Ministry is to support the smooth flow of exports and imports by addressing trade barriers. We have a range of instruments to deal with trade barriers. These are largely based on cooperation with respective authorities in the countries concerned. Bilateral instruments include direct contacts with the countries concerned, trade consultations, commissions established under cooperation agreements between Finland and the partner countries (such as the Finnish – Russian Intergovernmental Commission for Economic Cooperation) and high-level visits (such as visits promoting exports and international business) during which problems can be discussed with the authorities of the countries concerned.
Active bilateral collaboration is supported by cooperation at EU level aimed at removing export trade barriers. Cooperation in the EU aimed at removing export trade barriers of European companies, including cleantech companies, has been significantly intensified in recent years. Cooperation with the European Commission and other EU Member States thus also plays a significant role in the efforts to remove trade barriers encountered by environmental business operators.
The EU is closely monitoring the adherence of its trading partners to multilateral agreements that they have signed as members of the WTO and bilateral agreements that they have concluded with the EU (such as free trade agreements) and is working to ensure that the interests of EU-based companies are taken into account in the negotiations of new agreements. Finland is actively involved in this cooperation.
The WTO is the forum for multilateral cooperation aimed at removing trade barriers (including barriers to environmental business). Regardless of the difficult situation in the Doha Round, it would be important to find new ways to seek a comprehensive international agreement aiming at removing green trade barriers and high duties. Finland is actively cooperating with relevant actors in order to ensure that the removal of trade barriers to environmental business is a central issue on the global agenda.
In order to reach cleaner and greener future all global players need to cooperate. Our common goal needs to be avoiding protectionism and avoiding creation of new barriers to cleantech products and services. We need to guarantee globally a level playing field for companies dealing with environmental business. We need to continue to discuss with cleantech companies their challenges in export and import operations and continue the fruitful work with other countries to tackle these green trade barriers. I would therefore like to urge all parties involved – companies, federations and NGOs – to contact us to let us know about their objectives and possible problems when it comes to international trade in cleantech products.