WTO: 2011 NEWS ITEMS

TRADE AND ENVIRONMENT

> Speech by DDG Harsha V. Singh

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Symposium programme
Full programme of the UNFCCC

On 5 and 6 December 2011, WTO experts are speaking at the Trade and Climate Change Symposium, organized jointly by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), the WTO and the South African Department of Trade and Industry, in Durban, South Africa. An opening address was delivered by WTO Deputy Director-General Harsha V. Singh.

At one of the sessions, key climate experts and WTO representatives will discuss the array of regulations that governments are already implementing to mitigate climate change and the measures they are considering developing, i.e. measures ranging from carbon labelling to unilateral trade measures as well as financial support mechanisms. The session will also address the WTO’s role in promoting the mutual supportiveness of trade and climate change.

Another session will discuss innovation incentives and how to encourage the promotion and adoption of climate-friendly technologies. This will cover the role of intellectual property in general, the work of the World Intellectual Property Organization to support access to its global technology databases and capacity building to support innovation and technology transfer, and the adequacy of provisions in the Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement for achieving these objectives.

The WTO is also organizing on 8 December 2011 a seminar at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on linkages between green economy measures, trade and climate change. The event will explore the extent to which green economy measures in various sectors can make a positive contribution to climate change mitigation and their impact on trade.

These sessions will gather key thinkers and decision-makers, and will address the challenges facing the trade and climate change governance systems. Speakers will explore synergies between trade policies and climate change action, and focus on identifying constructive and innovative solutions.

 

Speech by DDG Harsha V. Singh

 

I want to begin by thanking our partners in the organization of this event.  Thank you Mr. Xavier Carim and thanks also to others from your Ministry who helped to make this event possible, relevant and interesting.  Likewise, thank you Mr. Melendes and your colleagues at ICTSD for all your conceptualization, focused effort and implementation of the details. 

WTO has a long history of co-operation with ICTSD on a large number of issues that cut across fields of trade, environment and development. The WTO works with the Government of South Africa on a regular basis, as South Africa is a very active participant in WTO. For example, over the years, we have organized together numerous training activities in South Africa.  However, this is the first time that we partner with ICTSD or the Republic of South Africa’s DTI to organize a leading event on Trade and Climate, in the margins of the UN negotiations on Climate Change.

This event co-organized by three different stakeholders is a very good development. In fact, each session of this event has been organised by different institutions or stakeholders, ready to offer and share their perspectives and expertise to achieve greater understanding on international trade and climate change, to emphasise the importance of opportunities through trade and an open and supportive multilateral trading system, and to do so in a consistent manner bearing in mind the inter-linkages between environmental and development objectives.

This Symposium lays out really impressive list of the core topics in the field of trade and climate change with renowned experts addressing them, in some cases based on work and ideas which have not yet been in the domain of common discussion.  The  most challenging and essential topics at the heart of trade and climate change are to be addressed: from climate protectionism and border measures to questions related to intellectual property, the use of biofuels and the impacts of climate change on agriculture. There is no doubt that these will be two intensive days that will deepen our understanding of these key issues.

The issue of open and growing international trade intersects with climate change in various ways as it leads to enhanced and more efficient economic activity and energy use, changing a country’s production mix towards its comparative advantage. 

The WTO has a key role to play in supporting the efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change.  The WTO does not have a specific agenda on climate change per se, though several of its provisions and work in some of its Bodies overlaps with steps required to address climate change. The WTO’s multilateral trading system helps create an enabling environment for countries to more efficiently use resources, stimulate growth and income levels, achieve greater energy efficiency, improve access to environmentally friendly goods and services, and enable nations to have opportunities to generate additional resources to better address climate change concerns. WTO institutions provide an important forum and an enabling environment for Members to discuss new trade-related measures and thereby avoid protectionist situations. WTO tools can be used to monitor national measures with trade impacts, including climate policies, so as to improve understanding and dialogue and avoid trade tensions.

Thus, the WTO is an essential part of the architecture of multilateral co-operation, providing a framework of disciplines to facilitate global trade and serving as a forum to negotiate further trade opening. The key objectives of the WTO’s Marrakesh Agreement include the optimal use of world’s resources in accordance with the principle of sustainable development and seeking to preserve and protect the environment.

Through its system of rules and transparency mechanisms, the multilateral trading system of the WTO can therefore make a key contribution to the global governance of trade and climate change.  These WTO rules also provides policy space for its Members in the adoption of climate change mitigation measures, provided the measures are not adopted with protectionist intent or applied arbitrarily or unjustifiably. The fundamental principles of non-discrimination and transparency — which underpin all WTO Agreements — ensure predictability and fair implementation of environment-related measures.

The WTO thus has a very important and useful toolbox for addressing trade-related climate change concerns.  Any objective analysis must recognise the strength of the existing systems of disciplines as well as concerns which extend beyond it.  The discussion must be with an open mind in order to achieve progress in addressing climate change adequately in a balanced and timely manner, with a clear emphasis on substantively addressing the interlinked environmental, social and domestic development objectives. The present multilateral trading system has worked well and should continue to remain strong and vibrant.  At the same time, we need to consider if some aspects need further progress. I am sure that this event will help us constructively walk ahead on this road.

I welcome you all and wish you a very fruitful interaction and discussion.

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