A Turquoise Mess: Green Subsidies, Blue Industrial Policy and Renewable Energy: The Case for Redrafting the Subsidies Agreement of the WTO
40 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2014 Last revised: 28 Apr 2014
Date Written: February 1, 2014
Canada-Renewable Energy presented the WTO Panel and Appellate Body (AB) with a novel issue: at the heart of the dispute was a measure adopted by the province of Ontario whereby producers of renewable energy would be paid a premium relative to conventional power producers. Some WTO Members complained that the measure was a prohibited subsidy because payments were conditional upon using Canadian equipment for the production of renewable energy. The AB gave them right only in part: it found that a local content requirement had indeed been imposed, but also found that it lacked evidence to determine whether a subsidy had been bestowed. The report is, for the reasons explained below, incoherent and could hardly serve as precedent for resolution of similar conflicts in the future. The facts of the case though, do raise legitimate questions both with respect to the specifics of the case, as well as of more general nature regarding the WTO Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM Agreement), and the role of the judge when facing legislative failure. In this paper, we provide some responses to these questions in light of the theory and evidence regarding industrial policy in the name of environmental protection.
Keywords: WTO; subsidies; renewable energy
JEL Classification: F18, K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation