Launched last November by 53 WTO members, the Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussions (TESSD) are intended to complement the existing work of the Committee on Trade and Environment and other relevant WTO committees and bodies.  The initiative is open to all WTO members and will also involve outreach to representatives from the business community, civil society, international organizations and academic institutions.

Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala welcomed the discussions, telling participants the initiative is in line with the WTO's founding principle of promoting sustainable development.

“I have said that to remain relevant, the WTO needs to deliver results,” she declared.  “And looking to the future, we have to see how we can harness the power of trade to help us have a healthy environment.  

“Trade policies can help unlock the green investment and innovation needed to decarbonize our economies and create the jobs of the future,” DG Okonjo-Iweala added.

Canada's WTO ambassador Stephen de Boer, who is coordinating the initiative along with Ambassador Gloria Abraham Peralta of Costa Rica, said the level of participation and interest in TESSD “is a testament to the importance and relevance of these discussions.”

“Public demand for meaningful action to address global environmental sustainability challenges are loud and only growing louder,” Ambassador de Boer said.  “We need to demonstrate that the WTO can meaningfully contribute to global efforts to combat the myriad of environmental sustainability challenges we face.”

Participants suggested possible deliverables for the WTO's next Ministerial Conference, to be held in Geneva the week of 29 November 2021.  Many identified setting parameters for  negotiations on liberalizing trade in environmental goods and services and agreeing on a work programme for addressing other pressing issues in the longer term as goals for MC12.

Some of the issues suggested by participants as possible topics for discussion include: trade and climate change; decarbonizing supply chains; the circular economy; biodiversity loss; fossil fuel subsidies; and border carbon adjustments measures.

Many members who took the floor also emphasized the importance of broadening participation in the discussions, ensuring the special needs of developing and least developed countries are taken into account, and avoiding duplication of efforts with the work currently taking place in the relevant WTO committees and bodies.

The next meeting of the TESSD will take place on 27-28 May.

Further information on the TESSD initiative is available here.




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