December 10, 2014 Environment

IWA Briefs World Trade Organization Negotiations on Water and Wastewater Technologies

Negotiations for an Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA) under the WTO have taken place this week in Geneva with the participation of 14 member states*. The current round of negotiations focuses on technologies used in the water and wastewater sector, and aims to finally reduce tariffs and create economic benefits of enhanced trade in environmental goods.

The EGA negotiations specifically aim to promote green growth and sustainable development by making environmental goods cheaper and more accessible.

The International Water Association, on the invitation of the 14 countries, prepared a full briefing for delegates on water and wastewater technologies. The two hour programme was chaired by the IWA Executive Director, Dr. Ger Bergkamp, and included:

  • A systems and technologies overview by IWA past-President Glen Daigger;
  • Current and future developments in water re-use and desalination technologies by Thomas Poschmann (CEO, Scinor-America (China));
  • Water supply technologies – networks and assets by Koen Kinsbergen (Global Director Asset Management Solutions, PURE Technologies, Canada);
  • Wastewater treatment technologies by Philippe Gislette (Technical and Innovation Director, Degrémont, France);
  • Wastewater transport, wastewater treatment and analytics across the cycle by Albert Cho (Vice-President, Strategy and Business Development, Xylem Inc., USA).

Global trade in environmental goods totals nearly $1 trillion annually, and some Members currently apply tariffs as high as 35 percent on these products. Tariffs add unnecessary costs to the green technologies and solutions we need to protect the environment. By taking action to eliminate those barriers, the EGA can make a major contribution to green growth and sustainable development.

The 14 countries currently participating in the EGA negotiations make up an estimated 86% of the global environmental goods trade. The negotiations use a list of 54 environmental goods as their starting point with an aim to review and enlarge this list. The Asia-Pacific Cooperation (APEC) Forum identified the listed goods in 2012, and equipment and materials for water and wastewater management feature importantly on this list.

Following the briefing panel discussions, which were joined by Brian Mergelas (Watertap, Ontario, Canada), debated a number of key issues, including:

  • Ensuing the negotiations are forward-looking and deal as much with existing goods as with goods under development whose availability is on the horizon;
  • There is a strong focus on environmental crises when countries want to be able to import essential equipment cheaply and rapidly, including equipment that helps build resilience;
  • In view of the further expansion of monitoring under the expected Sustainable Development Goals, the volume of sensor, measuring and monitoring equipment on the list is likely to increase;
  • Attention was called to the need to not only include new equipment but also spare parts and materials needed for the operation and maintenance of environmental goods on the list;
  • Among the emerging technologies, membrane technology for desalination, wastewater treatment and even water treatment was highlighted.

The IWA brief was much appreciated and laid the groundwork for possible further collaboration in identifying additional items on the list under negotiation. The IWA will follow up to this briefing session and explore with member states how collaboration in the context of these negotiations can be further developed.

For further information, please contact: Keith Robertson ( or Robert Bos (

For additional context visit the WTO website

* The 14 countries participating in the Environmental Goods Agreement negotiations are: Australia, Canada, China, Costa Rica, the European Union, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Switzerland, Chinese Taipei and the United States of America