WTO: 2011 NEWS ITEMS

TRADE AND ENVIRONMENT

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On the relationship between the WTO rules and multilateral environmental agreements (art. 31.1 of the Doha Declaration)

Discussions focused on national coordination, technical assistance, capacity building, special trade obligations (STOs) set out in multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) and principles.

  • On technical assistance and capacity building: The African group proposal gathered strong support but more clarity would be needed as to the mechanism suggested.  Existing procedures, in the WTO, UNEP and individual MEA secretariats, were also referred to.
  • STOs: Members highlighted some key features of MEAs that would ensure mutual supportiveness between trade and environment. 
  • National coordination: Members discussed further a proposal underlining the importance of national level coordination in the negotiation and implementation of STOs in MEAs.

On the collaboration between the WTO and multilateral environmental agreements' secretariats (art. 31.2 of the Doha Declaration)

Members reviewed the elements of a draft text (see Annex II of the March 2010 Stocktaking Report (TN/TE/19)). Delegations are now ready to engage in a drafting exercise.

In addition, the European Union proposed that observer status be granted to a number of MEAs that already work with the WTO. 

On the tariff reduction on environmental goods and services (art. 31.3 of the Doha Declaration)

Members examined various categories of products (air pollution control, renewable energy, waste management and water treatment, environmental technologies and carbon capture and storage). Talks highlighted the need for Members to work on a more focused and reduced list of goods (there are currently about 400 products on the table) and to go into more technical discussions, to clarify the environmental rationale of a product.

Discussions also revealed discrepancies between Members as to the definition of an environmental good (single use or multiple end uses).

There are three proposals on how to identify environmental goods (list approach, project approach and request/offer approach) and Members are still discussing their merits and ways of using a mixture of elements from these approaches.

Members also agreed that the liberalization of environmental services was equally important and should be addressed. No concrete proposal has been made so far. Members said discussions in the Services Council in Special Session would be useful but also added that the Committee on Trade and Environment in Special Session had a clear mandate on this issue. This issue will be further discussed at the next meeting.

During the discussions, Members highlighted the importance of special and differential treatment, technical assistance, capacity building and transfer of technology. 

Members reiterated the importance of technical assistance and capacity building.  Mauritius stressed that developing countries needed technical assistance to facilitate the acquisition of environmental technologies and the identification of export opportunities for environmental goods and services. 

Regarding special and differential treatment, Members examined various options such as implementation delays for developing countries, difference in treatment and in coverage between developed and developing countries.

Next steps

The chair will conduct small group consultations at the end of January and beginning of February 2011. Another week of negotiations will take place mid-February. 

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