Open Trade Is Essential for Successful Action on Climate

Trade can help make a greener world.
Trade can help make a greener world.

Copenhagen and New York, December 16, 2009 – What do the UN climate talks and the stalled Doha Round of trade negotiations have in common, apart from seemingly mind-numbing complexity?  Answer: Success in both will be essential for global sustainable development.  So says the head of an industry group representing top U.S. multinationals.

“International trade is a proven path to economic growth and technological advancement,” according to Peter M. Robinson, president and CEO of the United States Council for International Business (USCIB).  “As countries trade more, they grow richer and have additional resources to devote to environmental protection.  Both industrialized and developing countries have a clear stake in coordinated action to open markets and tackle global warming.”

So do companies, which is one reason USCIB members and other business representatives gathered yesterday with UN negotiators for a key side event in Copenhagen. The invitation-only event, titled “Trade, Investment and Climate Change – Synergies for Economic Growth and Environmental Progress,” sought to underscore the American business community’s strong commitment to positive and mutually reinforcing outcomes in global climate and trade negotiations.

“We want to highlight the positive relationship of open trade and investment with technology and financing for climate solutions,” said Mr. Robinson.  “Reaching a comprehensive WTO agreement that lowers trade barriers would boost investment and innovation in climate-friendly technologies.  On the other hand, if trade and climate are set against each another, the result would be to fuel protectionism and complicate the already difficult task of forging a global consensus on climate.”

Even now, said Mr. Robinson, too many countries are leaning toward using trade as a “hammer” to force countries to follow a specific path on reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.  “This temptation must be resisted,” he stated.”  “We need more carrots, and fewer sticks.”

Freeing up trade in environmental goods and services would give a boost to curbing global warming.  A 2007 World Bank study found that removing tariffs and non-tariff barriers in 18 of the high-emitting developing countries for four basic clean energy technologies (wind, solar, clean coal and efficient lighting) could lower the costs of these technologies by 13 percent, which could help reduce emissions significantly.

“What’s more, it is clear that these reductions could be further augmented through better management practices and technical know-how, both of which tend to follow in trade’s wake,” according to Mr. Robinson, who is attending the climate conference under the banner of USCIB’s global affiliate, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), which is coordinating business and industry representation in Copenhagen.

USCIB promotes international engagement and prudent regulation in support of open markets, competitiveness and innovation, sustainable development and corporate responsibility.  Its members include top U.S.-based global companies and professional services firms from every sector of the economy, and with operations in every region of the world.  With a unique global network encompassing leading international business organizations, including ICC, USCIB provides business views to policy makers and regulatory authorities worldwide, and works to facilitate international trade and investment.  More information is available at


Jonathan Huneke, VP Communications, USCIB
+1 212.703.5043 or

ICC website (includes related news from Copenhagen summit)

More on USCIB’s Environment Committee

More on USCIB’s Trade and Investment Committee

Staff Contact:   Kira Yevtukhova

Deputy Director, Marketing and Communications
Tel: 202.617.3160

Kira Yevtukhova manages USCIB’s print and online publications, including the website, e-newsletter and quarterly magazine, and serves as the organization’s digital media strategist. Prior to this role, Kira worked for over five years within USCIB’s Policy Department, focusing on climate change, environment, nutrition, health, and chemicals related policy issues. She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College and has an MBA from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.
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