WisBusiness: International environment conference coming to Madison

By Patrick Fitzgerald

The Multi-State Working Group’s 10th annual workshop, “International Dialogue on Ecological Policy,” is set to bring members of the international business community together on how to work in concert with evolving ecological policies that will be mandated for the global market in the imminent future.

The conference, to be held from June 17-20 in Madison, is expected to draw in upwards of 1,000 members from business, government, non-government and academic sectors from across the world.

Multiple forums will be held each day in collusion with the overall focus on how businesses can still serve markets, reduce risk, and stay competitive in shifting economies that will now have to pay heed to global concerns over climate change and sustainable commerce.

Specifically, the conference will look in detail at the impact of China and its powerhouse status in the marketplace, the permeability of influential European ideas around the globe, and how climatic considerations will overshadow dialogue and acceptance of emerging players as they play their cards on the global stage.

“Unless you understand what’s going on in China, you’re not going to be ahead of the curve,” said MSWG President Jeff Smoller. “You have to look at China as a place to export to, and understand how its regulated.”

That aspect of the workshop will be especially pertinent to Wisconsin businesses, since the state has an emerging environmental equipment and services industry netted at around $5.6 billion in annual sales.

“This is a significant opportunity for Wisconsin to export,” said Smoller, who added that Wisconsin businesses are increasingly adhering to the mantra “if you’re not China, you’re not in business.”

“This is potentially very beneficial to Wisconsin businesses.”

The weight of those figures have become even more pronounced since the second meeting of the US-China Strategic Economic Dialogue this past May, which yielded an agreement between the two countries which would effectively reduce or altogether eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers to environmental goods and services.

With the U.S. and China in the hotseat during recent time over their opposition to ratifying universally accepted environmental protocols, the agreement represents both countries move towards a more eco-friendly economy based on common economic initiatives. Rick Otis, Deputy Associate Administrator of the EPA Office of Policy, Economics, and Innovation, will be discussing those developments as part of his “Future trading in environmental goods and services” lecture on the last day of the conference.

Another focal point of the workshop will be the increasing clout of European environmental standards, which saw some success during the current G-8 summit as leaders pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but shirked away from formally adopting binding resolutions.

Smoller said Europe’s persistence has rubbed off on China, who is considering stricter chemical regulations in addition to already adopting stricter automobile standards.

“The important message is, they’re looking to Europe for ideas.”

Sign up for the conference is available through the Multi-State Working Group’s website at www.mswg.org