Trade Ruling on India Solar Disregards Sovereignty, Climate Concerns

Dave Johnson

“Watch what we do, not what we say.”
– Nixon Attorney General John Mitchell, explaining that the Nixon administration will be pursuing a hidden agenda, no matter what they are telling the public.

Forget everything the Obama administration is telling the public about trade and climate change.

● The U.S. argues that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other “trade” agreements respect the sovereignty of countries.

● The president says that the U.S. is “committed … to the tireless task of combating climate change and protecting this planet for future generations.”

There’s words, and there’s actions. The administration says that trade agreements do not infringe on the sovereignty of governments. And they say that they agree that climate change is a critically important problem to address.

But at least in the case of India’s efforts to build a renewable energy infrastructure the administration’s actions are not lining up with their words.

India’s ‘National Solar Mission’

In January, 2010 India’s government announced the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission. Initially targeting 20 gigawatts (GW) of solar production by 2022, this goal was later increased to 100GW.

India said since they are using India tax dollars to build this, they will follow a “Make in India” policy to try to purchase some of the critical materials inside India. This would help build a solar industry in India, employ people and the spending would ripple through India’s economy.

U.S. Says Trade Rules Should Overrule India’s Sovereignty And Climate Efforts

The U.S. had a problem with the India government’s sovereign decision to use India’s tax dollars to pay for solar cells produced in India and filed a case with the World Trade Organization (WTO) to block it. The U.S. argued that India’s “Make in India” policies discriminate against U.S. multinational corporations that want to dominate India’s market before India has a chance to develop its own local solar industry.

India argued that the initiative helped India meet its climate commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The WTO ruled that trade rules are more important that climate policies and said that India’s government cannot direct India’s tax dollars toward Indian companies.

Last week the WTO ruled that India cannot continue to do this. The WTO told India they must either change its laws to allow giant non-India multinationals to come in and dominate India’s solar effort. So much for “respecting the sovereignty of countries.”

“A Kick In The Gut To Climate Cooperation”

Clayton Aldern at Grist writes in “WTO swats down India’s massive solar initiative“:

The ruling is a particularly harsh kick in the gut to climate cooperation, coming so soon after the (quasi-)promising results reached in Paris last December. “The ink is barely dry on the U.N. Paris Climate Agreement, but clearly trade still trumps real action on climate change,” said Sam Cossar-Gilbert, a program coordinator at Friends of the Earth International, in a statement.

Ilana Solomon and Ben Beachy of the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program explain in “The WTO Just Ruled Against India’s Booming Solar Program“:

On the heels of the recent global summit in Paris to tackle climate disruption, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has ruled against an important piece of the climate solution puzzle: India’s ambitious program to create homegrown solar energy. The ruling shows that decades-old, over-reaching trade rules are out of sync with the global challenge to transition to 100 percent clean energy. … In effect, the WTO has officially asserted that antiquated trade rules trump climate imperatives.

The Sierra Club warns about TPP:

Rather than reform this outdated model of trade that constrains climate progress, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade pact between the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim nations that could come before Congress this year, would expand the model. Indeed, the text of the controversial deal replicates the very rules that the WTO used against India’s solar program today.

In “The WTO Gave Environmentalists A New Reason To Oppose The TPP,” Ben Walsh, Business Reporter at The Huffington Post drives this point home,

This is exactly the kind of decision that has many environmentalists worried about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the sweeping and controversial trade agreement President Barack Obama signed in February.

The TPP is being sold as “increasing trade” and “opening markets.” Those are words. The actions expose the reality: TPP and similar “trade” agreements are all about restricting the ability of governments to make decisions if they collide with the interests of giant, multinational corporations.

There is still time to let your representative and senators in Congress know that you are paying attention and oppose the TPP.

Get updates in your inbox

Comments