THIS NEWS STORY is designed to help the public understand developments in the WTO. While every effort has been made to ensure the contents are accurate, it does not prejudice member governments’ positions.
WTO trade and environment negotiators resumed their discussions on 17 December following the breakthrough achieved at the General Council meeting on 27 November 2014. At this meeting, WTO members agreed to set July 2015 as the new deadline for agreeing a work programme for completing the Doha Round of negotiations as a whole.
“This leaves us with only limited time to define our contribution to the work programme," warned Ambassador Ruamraksa of Thailand, who chairs the environment negotiations taking place in “special sessions” of the Trade and Environment Committee.
The purpose of this informal meeting was to hear WTO members' initial views on ways to move the negotiations forward, keeping in mind that 2015 will be a significant year for the environment. The next United Nations Climate Change Conference will be held in Paris in November. Also, work will continue on integrating the proposed Sustainable Development Goals into the post-2015 development agenda. "It would be important for the WTO to send an appropriate signal on this matter," said Ambassador Ruamraksa.
The chairperson proposed to hold an informal information session in February 2015 with a presentation of the state-of-play in the negotiations on the relationship between the WTO and multilateral environmental agreements (paragraphs 31(i) and 31(ii) of the 2001 Doha Declaration). In response to comments from several developing countries, the Chairperson decided to expand the scope of the information session to also cover trade liberalization in environmental goods and services (paragraph 31(iii) of the 2001 Doha Declaration).
In response to Director-General Roberto Azevêdo's speech to the General Council on 27 November, several members called for a "reasonable, pragmatic approach" and for negotiations to focus on "what is doable".
Although recognizing the importance of the environment negotiating mandate in the post-Bali work programme, some members, particularly developing countries, emphasized the need to tackle first other key issues of the Doha Round: agriculture, non-agricultural market access and services. These issues, they argued, can contribute to development objectives, including poverty alleviation.
Informal information session: February, date to be announced
Deadline for post-Bali work programme: July 2015
Chairperson: Ambassador Wiboonlasana Ruamraksa, Thailand.
Learn more about WTO negotiations on trade and environment here.