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Fighting Climate Change With Trade 155

Posted by samzenpus
from the passing-on-the-savings dept.
mdsolar writes with this story about the possible elimination of tariffs on environmental goods between the world's largest economic powers. The United States, the European Union, China and 11 other governments began trade negotiations this week to eliminate tariffs on solar panels, wind turbines, water-treatment equipment and other environmental goods. If they are able to reach an agreement, it could reduce the cost of equipment needed to address climate change and help increase American exports. Global trade in environmental goods is estimated at $1 trillion a year and has been growing fast. (The United States exported about $106 billion worth of such goods last year.) But some countries have imposed import duties as high as 35 percent on such goods. That raises the already high cost of some of this equipment to utilities, manufacturers and, ultimately, consumers. Taken together, the countries represented in these talks (the 28 members of the E.U. negotiate jointly, while China and Hong Kong are represented by separate delegations) account for about 86 percent of trade in these products, which makes the potential benefit from an agreement substantial. Other big countries that are not taking part in these talks, like India, South Africa and Brazil, could choose to join later.
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Fighting Climate Change With Trade

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  • by phantomfive (622387) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @12:51PM (#47443187) Journal
    Eliminating market inefficiencies in a way that benefits the environment seems like something everyone could find a reason to support.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by tomhath (637240)
      This isn't "market inefficiencies", the market is just fine. This is social engineering by subsidizing one group of products and letting other products pay the price. Attempts along these lines have already had big downsides (e.g. the inordinately high grain prices over the past few years brought on by subsidies to the ethanol industry).
      • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @01:10PM (#47443289)

        This is social engineering by subsidizing one group of products and letting other products pay the price.

        No it isn't. Protective tariffs are another form of subsidy, and reducing them is a good thing. Plenty of (mostly dumb) subsidies will remain, but this is a step in the right direction.

        • It depends. Sometimes tariffs are NOT effectively subsidies and are used to counteract subsidies in the producing country. But since you acknowledge that these are very related subjects, then I assume we will agree that both tariffs and subsidies for green energy need to be eliminated, or else we're just manipulating the market with slightly different (but possibly equivalent) forces.

          • Nothing wrong with subsidies provided everyone is subsidised equally. Subsidising FF and renewables is not the same thing, FF are already have a huge subsidy in that it costs nothing to pollute the commons. Any moron can construct a free market via regulation, the hard part is constructing one that doesn't eventually kill us with our own greed.
      • Since when have protective tariffs been "efficient"?

        Freemarket capitalists should be supporting freetrade no matter what reason the politicians give for getting rid of tariffs. Or are you one of those freemaket people who only think there should be freetrade if the USA benefits?

        • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Sunday July 13, 2014 @04:09PM (#47444311) Homepage Journal

          Since when have protective tariffs been "efficient"?

          If we required accounting of emissions, and not simply of currency units, then there would be no need for tariffs to address the issue of the hidden environmental costs. They can eventually be translated into economic costs, but they also affect quality of life — you can assign economic costs to that as well, but you'll hardly tell the whole story.

          When you buy goods made somewhere with inadequate pollution controls, many others have to pay part of your bill. My only problem with the whole idea is that any tariffs should be used specifically for bioremediation, and my prediction is that they largely won't be.

        • by sg_oneill (159032)

          Since when have protective tariffs been "efficient"?

          Freemarket capitalists should be supporting freetrade no matter what reason the politicians give for getting rid of tariffs. Or are you one of those freemaket people who only think there should be freetrade if the USA benefits?

          "grrr scientists are engaged in a vast left wing conspiracy organized by the lizard people to lie about physics for some reason" is why.

          Some peoples brains just sieze up when the scientific community points out some aspects of our cu

      • This is social engineering by subsidizing one group of products and letting other products pay the price.

        Yes. We should stop subsidizing fossil fuels, which currently receive massive subsidies.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by ganjadude (952775)
      agreed, I dont buy into the AGW religion but i am happy to buy things that are cleaner for the world when I can afford them. Making solar panels and other green tech cheaper is always good by anyones standards.

      The only people I would think would be against this is the governments collecting the tarriffs
      • > Making solar panels and other green tech cheaper is always good by anyones standards.

        In a vacuum? With no other effects? In what scenario would that ever happen?

        • by ganjadude (952775)
          well eliminating tarriffs is a good first start, that would drop the cost up to 35% for some people, thats not chump change
          • that is not the only effect. the other effect is that US producers will go out of business, because China is subsidizing the production of their PVs and windmills. the tariffs bring the cost of China's products closer to market price. if you take away the tariffs, you need to simultaneously remove the subsidies. yes, that includes the US's green energy subsidies as well.

            • So US customers will be able to buy PVs and windmills not only without import tariffs, but in part paid for by the Chinese government? Excellent news!

              You're wanting protectionism for expensive American factory workers?

              • Good lord you clowns are dense. It's not protectionism to counteract a producer subsidy. The subsidy is protectionism. A tariff is only protectionism if it causes the price of the good to be ABOVE MARKET.

                Let me try algebra. And I will even use the letters earlier on in the alphabet in case you haven't come across the latter ones.

                Price - subsidy of $A + tariff of $A = Price

                No change. No protectionism.

                • Good lord you clowns are dense.

                  It could be that, or it could be that you don't know what you are talking about, but you're desperate for people to think you do.

                  If country C is subsidizing and country A is applying a tariff to the exact same extent (which never happens) then they are both playing the same game of protectionism, each counteracting the other. However the government of country C is essentially recieving money from the government of country A. Without the tarriff, the consumers of country A become the beneficiary of the large

                  • They only benefit in a total vacuum. So what is the value of your point? Outside of your tiny narrow focus of consumers only and only at the very time of the transaction in which they consume and not considering at all the ability over time for them to consume, manipulation of market prices leads to waste, and it is not just one sided.

                    • Right, my logic only works in the case I described, whereas your nonsense applies all the rest of the time. Is that a red nose you're wearing? And outsize shoes?

                    • The case you describe doesn't exist outside of your contrived fantasy world.

    • So, you support eliminating all government subsidies for green energy too, right?

      • So, you support eliminating all government subsidies for green energy too, right?

        Well now, that's a completely different topic. There are plenty of people who oppose that.

        • No, that's exactly the point. It is not a completely different topic. Many tariffs are used by countries to counteract subsidies in the producing company. That is why we (the US) impose a tariff on Chinese PVs. China heavily subsidizes PV manufacturing. And if you just eliminate the tariff without handling the subsidy, then the problem gets worse, not better.

          • Apparently you are not one of the people who oppose eliminating government subsidies for green energy.
    • by pitchpipe (708843)

      Does anyone oppose this?

      You must be new here.

    • Eliminating market inefficiencies in a way that benefits the environment seems like something everyone could find a reason to support. Reply to This Share

      Except that these aren't "market inefficiencies".

      Tariffs exist for real reasons. For example: the solar industry in China is heavily government-subsidized. So by removing any tariffs, the government would allow them to compete on the "free" market (which really isn't) against other companies in the U.S. and Europe that aren't so heavily subsidized.

      When government is subsidizing your industry, it's isn't a real "market". And therefore this does not represent "market inefficiencies".

      Make no mistake:

      • Write a letter to Obama.
      • Tariffs exist for real reasons. For example: the solar industry in China is heavily government-subsidized. So by removing any tariffs, the government would allow them to compete on the "free" market (which really isn't) against other companies in the U.S. and Europe that aren't so heavily subsidized.

        So the goods we buy would be in part paid for by the Chinese government? Excellent news!

    • by hey! (33014)

      I dunno. Has Obama come out in favor of it yet?

    • by camg188 (932324)
      I think that it's great, but to think that this will significantly impact any climate change is foolishness.
    • by Sqr(twg) (2126054)

      The tarrifs are a result of the German company SolarWorld's decision in 2012 to use its influence on the US state department to impose tariffs on Chinese exports. The Chinese responded in kind.

      Presumably there are still some companies that sell more domestically than they export. The question is then: how much political influence do these companies have.

      (If it weren't legal for corporations to buy US politicians and civil servants, the problem would probably have existed in the first place.)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Tool elitist scams that go together like chocolate and peanut butter. It was only a matter of time. The 1% will eat this peanut butter cup, while the rest of us get laid off yet again "for the benefit of humanity".

    • That's the most bizarre mix of conspiracy theory and politics that I've seen in a long time. That's saying something.
  • It appears that a country has to be more or less third world [oecd.org] (2001-2002 data for the most part) in order to have 35% tariff rates (under the WTO scheme). Most of the countries in the current negotiation already have tariff rates near or under 5% including the US, the EU, Australia, Japan, and probably South Korea and Switzerland. In the link above, China had tariffs a bit over 5% on most goods aside from a few entries (it may be better now since the report is ten years old). The worst at 40% was ethanol (go
  • with stuff that's crappy but incredibly cheap in 3...2...1...

  • by overshoot (39700) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @01:41PM (#47443465)

    The United States exported about $106 billion worth of such goods last year.

    It's one thing to export $106 billion more than you import and quite another to export $106 billion while importing $250 billion.

    A good rule of thumb is that if an article doesn't explicitly tell you that it's a net export, it's because it's a puff piece with a bias and the truth would harsh the whole slant.

    • by ganjadude (952775)
      citation? not a complaint im actually interested in the difference here
      • by overshoot (39700)
        No source -- more of a complaint on TFA. The difference between gross exports and net exports is definitional, so I would hope no source required.
        • by ganjadude (952775)
          ok, i was not sure if that 250 mil number was correct or not, id like to find out what the actual difference is
  • Get rid of them all (Score:5, Informative)

    by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Sunday July 13, 2014 @01:43PM (#47443473) Homepage Journal

    If people really care about global warming and economic activity, they should read the latest IPCC report. It says that the best way to avoid warming is economic development. If the economy freezes in place (something a high carbon tax could do) then the warming will be about 4C by the end of the century. If the economy in all the "third world" countries develops into something like first-world conditions by the continued march of progress, then the warming will be closer to 1C.

    Anything that stands in the way of that development is going to contribute to the warming. Removing these tariffs is a good thing, but to get maximum environmental benefit they need to get rid of the rest.

    I know, Overton's Window and all.

    • by russotto (537200)
      Wait, the gospel has changed from the old story about the horrible Westerners using 99% of the resources and producing 150% of the pollution by oppressing the poverty-stricken but frugal and in-tune with nature third-worlders? When did this happen?
      • There is a small shelf of this debate that is actually based on logic and facts. But the vast majority of the debate is full of nonsense like that to which you allude. So, unless you are specifically referring to the IPCC as "gospel", then it hasn't changed.

      • by Calavar (1587721)
        The gospel has changed because the world has changed. In the 70s and 80s, India, China, Indonesia, Thailand, etc. had only a fraction of the industry that they do now, so they were responsible for much less pollution. Back then the US was the worlds biggest polluter, followed by most of Western Europe. Over the past 30 years, things changed. This has very little to do with media bias.
    • by lonecrow (931585)
      I think you only have half the story there. I think the full story would be that developed nations should embrace a carbon tax as a way of subsidizing renewables and account for the true cost of carbon based fuels, whereas the 3rd world should develop enough so that they can create the conditions to eventually do the same. This was called converge and contract. I think it is still the working plan.
  • Actions like this are how you get the other half to agree to do things to reduce CO2 emissions.

    Good step: Offer to eliminate tariffs on solar panels and other things.
    Bad step: Call anyone who so much as questions ANYTHING a denier.
    Good step: Get behind building LOTS of modern nuclear plants. LOTS.
    Bad step: Say that anyone who so much as questions ANYTHING should be arrested. https://theconversation.com/is... [theconversation.com]
    Good step: Get behind building LOTS of electric cars, and the technology to increase batteries' en

    • Good step: Offer to eliminate tariffs on solar panels and other things.
      Good step: Get behind building LOTS of modern nuclear plants. LOTS.
      Good step: Get behind building LOTS of electric cars, and the technology to increase batteries' energy density.

      Three great steps!

      As to "and other things..." I have always favored a move in the direction of free trade in all things, as Jefferson (not Hamilton) intended. In modern context this involves rolling back tariffs altogether, including ones for which a reciprocal arrangement exists, with the objective of simplifying things in general, and Federal law in particular. Henry George's 1886 treatise Protection or Free Trade [mises.org] remains as relevant and thought-provoking as ever. I agree with other posters who have

    • Come on. You know that "environmentalist makes death threat" is news, but "other environmentalists say nobody should be threatening anybody" isn't. "Western civilization doomed unless we go back to the 1700s" is news, but "carbon cap and trade will mitigate much of the effect" isn't. Is it your opinion that any loose grouping of people around an idea should take out full-page ads in major newspapers to denounce their idiot fringe?

      The issue with denialism is that the science is pretty well established

  • by mattwarden (699984) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @02:41PM (#47443773) Homepage

    The US uses tariffs to offset subsidies by China, for example, on PV panels. If you agree to eliminate the tariffs without addressing the subsidies, then it doesn't solve the problem, and it certainly doesn't "increase American exports" as the summary suggests. Of course, you'd have to eliminate the US's green subsidies, too.

    I'm sure you're all in favor of that, right?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Both the US and EU (at the request of German manufactures) are currently pursuing action against China for dumping of PV cells. There are also issues looming over China's attempts to exploit a near monopoly on rare earths to control the market for wind turbines.

      All this while China imposes tariffs on imports.

      There is a long way to go before there is free trade in this area.

  • The US government applied tariffs to Chinese solar panels because the Chinese were dumping them in the US market. If they can agree to see their product in our market for a fair price, sure we can climate the tariffs; otherwise, forget it cause we're not killing our on shore manufacturing and watching the prices skyrocket.

    http://rt.com/business/163552-... [rt.com]

    • China is subsidizing the production of solar panels. Meanwhile, the United States is subsidizing the consumption of solar panels.

    • The US government applied tariffs to Chinese solar panels because the Chinese were dumping them in the US market.

      In other words, they were selling them more cheaply than the local manufacturers could, and the government moved to protect local industry at the cost of the consumer. I'm not sure why you think that's a valid defence.

  • The United States Imposes Steep Tariffs on Importers of Chinese Solar Panels

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06... [nytimes.com]

  • So, the US Government is trying to capitalize politically on its effort to "save the environment" by removing tariffs it only imposed on Chinese solar panels LAST MONTH?

    I see what they did, there.

  • Increasing goods movement seems counterproductive if this is about fighting CO2 emissions.
  • Sure glad to see all of the shipyard employees are no longer toiling all day. Now days the billionaires do business in public with our tax dollars and everyone wonders why there are so many billionaires these days.

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