The webinar explored ways to harness the trade regime to make societies more resilient and support sustainable post-COVID-19 recovery.
Sofie Hermann Flensborg, CITES Secretariat, noted that while on its own CITES cannot prevent future pandemics, it can help reduce the risk.
Gabrielle Marceau, University of Geneva/WTO, suggested that the WTO work with CITES to help prevent future pandemics through import and export restrictions if such restrictions are justified.
Speakers during a webinar on the role of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), other multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), and World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements in preventing future pandemics explored ways to harness the trade regime to make societies more resilient and support sustainable post-COVID-19 recovery.
The webinar focused on the theme, ‘Multilateral Environmental Agreements and the Trade Regime: Exploring Options for CITES and Preventing Future Pandemics.’ Soledad Leal Campos, International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), moderated the discussion. The webinar was organized by IISD and the University of Geneva’s Faculty of Law as part of their joint series on trade and sustainability.
Sofie Hermann Flensborg, CITES Secretariat, said CITES aims to ensure that international trade in wild flora and fauna is sustainable, traceable, and legal. She noted that while on its own CITES cannot prevent future pandemics, it can help reduce the risk.
Sources of problems and their solutions are not within the agreements but in the way we live.
Flensborg observed that: the Convention does not regulate domestic trade or trade in domesticated species; the risk of zoonotic pathogen spillover also depends on factors beyond the scope of CITES; zoonotic pathogens may spillover in contexts where CITES is not involved; and illegal trade poses higher risks than well-regulated, managed, and monitored trade. She outlined the Convention’s role in reducing the risk of future pandemics by, among other measures:
- regulating, controlling, and monitoring trade in specimens of wild animals to ensure that such trade is sustainable, legal, and traceable;
- ensuring effective implementation and enforcement, including penalties for illegal trade;
- strengthening collaboration between public health authorities, veterinary services, and wildlife management authorities;
- working with partners at the international and national levels, including the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), TRAFFIC, and the International Air Transport Association (IATA); and
- developing, discussing, and adopting potential additional measures under CITES.
Gabrielle Marceau, University of Geneva/WTO, outlined the relationships between WTO trade agreements and MEAs. She noted that under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), WTO members may be exempted from GATT rules and apply measures that are necessary to protect the environment and human, animal or plant life or health, especially if such measures are taken in support of MEAs, and that trade and non-trade measures “must be properly balanced.” Marceau further noted that under the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS), countries have the right to take measures necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health.
Marceau suggested that the WTO work with CITES to help prevent future pandemics through import and export restrictions if such restrictions are justified, and highlighted the role of subsidies in this regard.
Markus Pikart, UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), presented on electronic permit systems that help better control trade and future spread of animal- and plant-borne diseases. He outlined the role of interagency collaboration and control in ensuring better control of CITES-regulated species, and highlighted the need to accelerate uptake of new technologies.
In the ensuing discussion, participants addressed, inter alia: the need for further collaboration among CITES, the WTO, other organizations, and private entities; the regulation of import and export permit issuance; the role of CITES in minimizing the risk of transmission of zoonotic pathogens through regulations on transportation of live animals; and fostering partnerships between CITES and other MEAs, including the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
Marceau stressed that while different agreements deal with different aspects, “sources of problems and their solutions are not within the agreements but in the way we live.” [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]