INFORMAL DIALOGUE ON PLASTICS POLLUTION AND ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSTAINABLE PLASTICS TRADE
The proposed statement reaffirms participants' commitment to strengthening the trade dimension of efforts to tackle plastics pollution through the IDP. It lists the actions participants would take from MC12 onwards and in the run-up to the 13th Ministerial Conference. These actions include sharing experience on data collection regarding trade flows and supply chains, strengthening cooperation with other international regulatory processes and identifying environmentally sustainable trade policies and mechanisms.
The draft statement stresses the need for strengthening technical assistance for vulnerable economies, including least developed members (LDCs) and small island developing states (SIDS). The IDP “will look for concrete, pragmatic, and effective outcomes on these actions and understandings at the latest by MC13,” the statement says.
Ambassador Mina said it was a strong statement which showed the “enthusiastic engagement” of participants and signified “a quite important moment in the WTO”. “The environment dimension had been thought of as a bit of an add-on for the trade regime in the past, [but with the IDP statement] that's changing,” he declared.
Participants also reviewed a factual report (INF/TE/IDP/W/3, circulated on 4 October) alongside the draft statement. Consolidating a wealth of information presented and discussed in the IDP, the report highlights the evolution of the WTO's work on plastics pollution and maps current international action with trade implications. The report also summarises discussions on the IDP's six main topics since its launch in November 2020: transparency and monitoring trade trends, promoting best practices, international cooperation, collective approaches, policy coherence, and capacity and technical assistance needs.
The report was widely welcomed as a useful information tool for discussions going forward. Ambassador Mina said the report sets the parameters for future work at the IDP and could be instrumental in building support from more members for the dialogue.
A number of participants took the floor to thank Australia and Ecuador for their leadership in drafting the ministerial statement. They acknowledged the progress made in the IDP and stressed the importance of enhanced mutual complementarity between the WTO and other international processes in addressing the global challenges from plastics pollution. Some members reiterated the need for capacity building and technical assistance in LDCs and SIDS. Some textual suggestions were made by participants in relation to the level of ambition, closing the information gap on certain aspects of plastics trade, and more focus on the full life cycle of plastics trade, among other things.
A strong call was made to enhance the synergies between the IDP and other environment-related forums at the WTO, including the Committee on Trade and Environment and the Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussions (TESSD). China, a co-coordinator of the IDP, announced its decision to officially join TESSD. This was seen as a very positive move and welcomed by the co-sponsors of TESSD. The EU announced it was consulting with member states on the possibility of joining the IDP.
A number of stakeholders provided their views on the factual report and the draft ministerial statement. In general, stakeholders commended the IDP ministerial statement as a remarkable step forward as the WTO seeks opportunities for trade cooperation to support global environmental sustainability objectives. The WTO needs to continue complementing other international organizations' work and galvanize more action and cooperation through the IDP, they said.
Ambassador Mina said he was encouraged by the “rich and honest” conversation. He highlighted the draft ministerial statement as an important step because “it brings together global cooperation on trade-related aspects of plastics for the first time in this house”. Moving forward, building support is key, he said. The IDP dialogue is open to all WTO members, the statement is a carefully calibrated text, and it should not challenge too many members to support it, he noted.
Ambassador Mina made clear the task between now and MC12 — the IDP participants need to galvanize more support from the wider WTO membership on the statement that is now effectively stabilized. “We have a special responsibility to make sure the IDP statement has a role in the debate. We are on track for a great MC12 outcome,” he concluded.
Launched in November 2020 by a group of WTO members, the Informal Dialogue seeks to address the rising environmental, health and economic cost of plastics pollution. It currently has 18 participants and is open to all WTO members. The aim of the group is to complement discussions in the WTO's Committee on Trade and Environment and other fora.
Key topics identified by the proponents to be discussed in 2021 include: improving transparency; monitoring trade trends; promoting best practices; strengthening policy coherence; identifying the scope for collective approaches; assessing capacity and technical assistance needs; and cooperating with other international processes and efforts.
The 18 WTO members who currently co-sponsor the informal dialogue are: Australia, Barbados, Cabo Verde, Canada, Central African Republic, China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Fiji, The Gambia, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Morocco, New Zealand, Russia, Switzerland, Thailand and the United Kingdom.
The co-coordinators of the initiative are Australia, Barbados, China, Ecuador, Fiji and Morocco.