WTO: 2016 NEWS ITEMS

TRADE AND ENVIRONMENT


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WTO members discussed a proposal by Korea, Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico and Chinese Taipei to hold dedicated sessions on trade and climate change under the CTE. The proponents had wanted to take stock of discussions going on at the WTO and other international organizations as they sought to deepen members' understanding of trade policy's potential contribution to addressing climate change.

Several delegations expressed support for the proposal and reiterated the importance of enhancing understanding of the links between trade and climate change. However, some other delegations said that the committee should not focus on just this issue and that climate change discussions were better left to other fora.

Following the request of several developing countries, part of the committee meeting was also dedicated to the topic of managing chemicals and waste, with a focus on “e-waste” from electronic equipment.

The secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions, represented by its Executive Secretary Rolph Payet, presented its work regarding the management and recycling of e-waste as well as briefed the committee on the outcome of 2015 meetings of the conferences of parties (Cop) and preparations for CoP 2017. The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) presented its work on the sustainable management of e-waste and main barriers to proper e-waste treatment in particular for developing countries. Chile, Canada, and Chinese Taipei shared their domestic practices and regulations on waste management.

 

Fisheries

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) shared findings from the 2016 State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture report, which notes that world aquaculture now provides half of all fish for human consumption compared to just 7% in 1974. The report highlighted the role of fish in food security and also provided information on fish trade.

Several delegations showed interest in the findings while some stressed the need to prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contributed to overcapacity and overfishing. They also called for the elimination of subsidies that contribute to illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing.

 

Fossil fuel subsidy reform

New Zealand on behalf of the Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform said at the meeting that support for eliminating such subsidies continued to grow and that the WTO had a role to play. New Zealand highlighted the group's communiqué as a way of implementing the Paris Agreement.

In response, some delegations said they supported discussing the issue in the CTE while several others highlighted that fossil fuel subsidy reforms had no linkage to the WTO, and were of the view that the WTO was not the appropriate venue to discuss such matters.

 

Wildlife trade

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) briefed delegations about a conference of parties held in Johannesburg in October 2016. The European Union presented its Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking, which was adopted in February 2016 and set a roadmap for the EU strategy against wildlife trafficking until 2020. The United States updated delegations on the work of its Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking, including the National Strategy for Combatting Wildlife Trafficking issued in 2014.

 

Other topics

Several members spoke about environmental provisions in regional trade agreements (RTAs). Canada presented its experience in negotiating and implementing environmental provisions in free trade agreements and noted that the key principle it followed was to promote mutual supportiveness between trade liberalization and environmental protection. New Zealand presented on the implementation of environmental provisions in its RTAs, providing concrete examples of bilateral cooperation under its agreements. The WTO Secretariat made a presentation on environmental provisions in RTAs notified to the WTO based on a WTO staff working paper published in August 2016.

Australia provided an update on the Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA) being negotiated among 18 participants. One delegation expressed concern that this initiative could undermine negotiations at the multilateral level.

Australia also briefed delegations on the Workshop “The WTO and Agenda 2030”, which was jointly organized by the MIKTA (Mexico, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, Turkey and Australia) Group. Mexico presented on the preparation of CoP 13 of the Convention on Biological Diversity scheduled to take place in Cancun, Mexico from 4 to 17 December 2016 with as a main theme “Integrating Biodiversity for Well-being”.

The International Standards Organization presented on its work related to carbon footprint, particularly on the multi-party group created to examine the issue of barriers to trade and standards used in legislation. The group was expected to issue its report at the end of 2017. The United Nations Environment Programme briefed delegations on its recent activities and noted the landmark deal adopted under the Montreal Protocol in October 2016 to curb the use of hydrofluorocarbons.

The WTO Secretariat introduced the 2013 Environmental Database (EDB), circulated in May 2016, highlighting key trends in measures notified. Several delegations expressed their appreciation for the tool and the efforts made to compile the information for the database. Some delegations suggested that to facilitate dissemination and use the EDB could be improved with a web-based interface. The Secretariat noted that it was already exploring such improvements subject to the availability of resources.

 

Next meeting

The next committee meeting will be in the first half of 2017.

 

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