Congressional Testimony of Eileen Claussen: Trading and International Competitiveness



At the Climate Conference of
The Energy and Natural Resources Committee
United States Senate

Panel: Trading and International Competitiveness

Washington, DC
April 4, 2006

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to participate in this conference. The Pew Center works closely with a council of forty-one major companies to advance practical and effective climate change policies.

I would like to address the issue of the comparability of national efforts by disentangling two distinct but related objectives: (1) achieving adequate action by all major emitting countries, and (2) protecting U.S. firms against competitiveness impacts.

The first of these objectives is best achieved through multilateral commitments engaging all the major greenhouse gas-emitting nations in a fair and effective long-term effort.   Twenty-five countries account for 83 percent of global emissions.  Engaging these major economies requires a flexible framework that allows different countries to take on different types of binding commitments.  We believe the United States should play a leadership role in developing such a framework.

But ensuring broad comparability at the national level will not necessarily achieve the second objective:   protecting U.S. firms against competitiveness impacts.  It is not the competitiveness of the U.S. economy as a whole that is at issue.  To the degree that there are competitiveness impacts, they will fall on specific sectors: energy-intensive industries whose goods are traded internationally. These sectors might remain vulnerable even if efforts by all major emitters are broadly comparable, because countries could choose to exempt a given sector from controls, giving that sector an advantage over foreign competitors.

At the international level, one way to ensure a level playing field is to establish multilateral agreements along sectoral lines. These could be one element of the framework I mentioned earlier.

At the domestic level, in designing a national cap-and-trade system, we should set the caps at modest levels, allow offsets, and “grandfather” allowances in a way that protects vulnerable firms or sectors. We could also dedicate funds, possibly by auctioning a portion of allowances, to provide technology assistance to affected industries and transition assistance for their workers.

I would like to note in closing that the single most important step the United States can take to encourage stronger efforts by other countries is to begin in earnest to address our own greenhouse gas emissions. I applaud the Committee for advancing this critical debate.

Thank you.