TRADE AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY STRUCTURED DISCUSSIONS

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The participants reviewed a revised draft elements text for a ministerial statement at the fourth meeting of the Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussions (TESSD) which took place on 16-17 September. The text underscores the role of trade policy in helping address climate change and other environmental challenges. It sets out commitments on future work and objectives as well as a work programme for the TESSD discussions in 2022.

Opening the meeting, Ambassador Stephen de Boer of Canada, the co-coordinator (with Costa Rica) of the TESSD initiative, encouraged WTO members to continue their efforts to arrive at a ministerial statement that will encourage more members to participate in the TESSD and demonstrate that the WTO has a role to play on the important topic of trade and the environment.

Introducing the revised draft, Ana Lizano of Costa Rica noted the useful and positive feedback received from participants on the text. The revised draft seeks to attract broad support from members and to address the overall importance of trade in achieving sustainable goals, she said.

More than a dozen participating members took the floor to comment on the draft text. Welcoming the general support voiced by members for the text, she suggested consultations continue over the next few weeks so that a more solid and stable draft could emerge by early October.

Closing the meeting, Ambassador Gloria Abraham Peralta of Costa Rica said that participants were on the right path to achieving a comprehensive ministerial statement reflecting the great opportunity ahead to make a real contribution to the multilateral trading system.

Most of the two-day meeting was dedicated to three thematic sessions open to WTO members and representatives from international organizations and civil society. The first session provided an opportunity for participants to review trade-related topics arising in discussions on sustainable and equitable markets for food and agriculture, including food security, sustainable food systems, climate change and the sustainable use and restoration of biodiversity.

The second session allowed participants to deepen their understanding of the intersection between climate and trade policies, including implications for developing countries and the WTO's role in ensuring mutual supportiveness and coherence between trade and climate regimes. Participants in the third session examined issues related to promoting and facilitating trade in environmental goods and services, with a focus on the opportunities and challenges for developing countries.

The meeting also heard updates from New Zealand regarding its proposal for a 12th Ministerial Conference statement on the need for fossil fuel subsidy reform and from Australia regarding its initiative on removing barriers to international trade in environmental goods and services. 

Ecuador made an intervention on the separate discussions taking place in the Informal Dialogue on Plastics Pollution and Environmentally Sustainable Plastics Trade, of which Ecuador is a participant. 

Launched in November 2020 by 53 WTO members, the TESSD is intended to complement the existing work of the Committee on Trade and Environment and other relevant WTO committees and bodies. The initiative, which is open to all members, seeks to promote transparency and information sharing, identifying areas for future work within the WTO. It also seeks to support technical assistance and capacity building needs, particularly for least-developed countries, and to work on deliverables for environmental sustainability in the various areas of the WTO.

The next TESSD meeting will take place on 18-19 October.

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