GENEVA - Governments should not wait for a full Doha Round deal before slashing punitive tariffs on wind turbines, solar panels and water-saving showers, Britain's top trade official said on Tuesday.
Gareth Thomas, minister for trade and development, said that countries should voluntarily cut import duties on green goods at once in order to encourage business in environmentally friendly technology.
Why hold back now, just because we are waiting for the Doha Round to be done? he told Reuters during a ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization.
The WTO's 153 members are aiming to wrap up the Doha accord, which spans all areas of global trade, including food, cars and banking, in 2010. Talks on the agreement began in November 2001, making it the longest-running trade round to date.
While many countries are sensitive about cutting back the subsidies they give to farmers or losing revenue streams from lower border taxes, there is wide consensus about the need to foster environmental goods as an engine for future prosperity.
Thomas said that an early implementation of the clean energy tariff cuts would not carve up the Doha deal, which is designed as a take it or leave it accord where nothing is agreed until it is entirely agreed.
It doesn't preclude us reaching an agreement in the Doha Round. We have got to take the whole of the Round together, but there are all sorts of things that you can do to take steps forward in each of the dossiers, he said.
Earlier on Tuesday, New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser said he was hopeful that governments worldwide could agree on the need to boost clean energy products and services.
It is something we have to do, he told a conference on the sidelines of the WTO meeting, called to take stock of the health of global trade relations and the steps forward for trade governance.
Brazilian envoy Flavio Damico said that regardless of when the multilateral agreement is wrapped up, trade policies must be put in line with the new climate change regulations about to be developed in Copenhagen.
Climate change is a question of economics and trade, he told the side conference, where Indonesian Trade Minister Mari Pangestu also stressed the necessity to see the inter-linkages between trade, climate change and development.
(Editing by Louise Ireland)