The statement highlights the role of trade in achieving sustainable development and the SDGs, and expresses concern over the increasing “environmental, biodiversity, health and economic costs of plastic pollution”.
Its proponents agree to support global efforts by, inter alia, “[i]dentifying ways to improve the understanding of global trade in plastics” and sharing experiences on how to move towards a more circular, resource-efficient, and environmentally sustainable plastics trade.
The statement also notes “the value and importance” of engaging with stakeholders.
A group of World Trade Organization (WTO) members issued a ministerial statement, developed under the Informal Dialogue on Plastic Pollution and Environmentally Sustainable Plastics Trade (IDP). The IDP was launched in November 2020 during the WTO’s Trade and Environment Week by Australia, Barbados, Canada, China, Fiji, and Morocco, to “explore how improved trade cooperation, within the rules and mechanisms of the WTO, could contribute to domestic, regional, and global efforts to reduce plastic pollution and transition to a more circular and environmentally sustainable global plastics economy.”
The current IDP co-conveners are Australia, Barbados, Ecuador, China, Fiji, and Morocco.
The launch of the statement was delayed after the WTO’s Twelfth Ministerial Conference (MC 12), due to start on 30 November, was postponed because of travel restrictions linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is one of the three ministerial statements launched on 15 December, along with statements on trade and environmental sustainability and fossil fuel subsidy reform.
The ministerial statement (WT/MIN(21)/8/Rev.2) notes that, according to UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimates, trade in plastics accounts for approximately 5% of global trade, which translates into more than USD 1 trillion in 2019 – almost 40% higher than previously thought.
The statement highlights the role of trade in achieving sustainable development and the SDGs, and expresses concern over the increasing “environmental, biodiversity, health and economic costs of plastic pollution.” It further recognizes “the need for further commitment and actions across the life cycle of plastics to address marine litter and microplastics, including through a circular economy approach.”
The document acknowledges the economic and environmental impacts of plastic pollution on small island developing States (SIDS) in particular, It recognizes the challenges developing and least developed countries (LDCs) have “in addressing trade-related aspects of plastics pollution,” and reaffirms the proponents’ commitment to addressing these challenges.
The statement recognizes ongoing efforts to address plastic pollution, including in the context of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (Basel Convention) and its Plastic Waste Amendments, and the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA), and underscores “opportunities for enhanced cooperation” among different processes on the issue. It also recognizes the relevant work in the WTO Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE) and “synergies with other processes and initiatives at the WTO,” and notes that addressing plastic pollution is part of “broader WTO discussions to advance shared trade and environmental sustainability objectives.”
Additionally, the statement notes “the value and importance” of engaging with a broad range of stakeholders, including international organizations, trade and environmental authorities, domestic entities, the private sector, academia, and civil society.
The statement highlights a number of “shared understandings” reached by the statement’s proponents. It notes that participating members could support global action to reduce plastics pollution by, among other efforts: “[i]dentifying ways to improve the understanding of global trade in plastics”; sharing experiences on how to move towards a more circular, resource-efficient, and environmentally sustainable plastics trade; and addressing developing members’ capacity-building and technical assistance needs, particularly those of LDCs and SIDS.
The statement’s proponents emphasize the importance of engaging with other organizations and processes by:
- Enhancing cooperation in areas such as definitions, scope, standards, design, and labeling;
- Identifying effective trade policies and measures to support implementation of actions on plastics under other international processes while strengthening coherence within the WTO’s rules and mechanisms; and
- Identifying actions to improve data collection on trade flows and supply chains.
The participating members agree to “hold dedicated discussions” to share best practices and experiences on how trade cooperation could help “support efforts to reduce unnecessary or harmful plastics and plastic products” and on ways to promote trade in goods and services that can reduce plastic pollution, including through the use of technologies.
The draft ministerial statement was circulated on 10 December 2021 at the request of the following WTO members: Albania; Australia; Barbados; Cabo Verde; Cambodia; Cameroon; Canada; the Central African Republic (CAR); Chad; Chile; China; Colombia; Costa Rica; Ecuador; the EU; Fiji; the Gambia; Honduras; Hong Kong, China; Iceland; Jamaica; Japan; Kazakhstan; the Republic of Korea; Macao, China; Morocco; New Zealand; Norway; Panama; Peru; the Philippines; the Russian Federation; Singapore; Suriname; Switzerland; Thailand; Tonga; the UK; Uruguay; and Vanuatu. It now has the support of 67 members.