Executive Secretary,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

To mark this environment week, we wanted to display some very beautiful works of art in the WTO Atrium.  I invite you to take the time to admire them: they convey strong messages on the reasons that bring us together today.

A sculpture invites us to reflect upon the dual role played by carbon on our planet, as both the source of life and the cause of its destruction.

A selection of photographs evoke rising waters.

Objects have been put on display to demonstrate our regrettable addiction to plastic.

Two paintings portray the melting of ice with sadness.

All of these works tell, or, should I say, scream, the same story: there is no more time to lose, climate change is now claiming lives every day, it is a proven and immediate danger and nobody, no economic sector, can ignore the challenge of environmental sustainability any longer. 

Trade and the WTO are not “in clinical isolation” (a famous Appellate Body expression) from this reality. On the contrary, we only need to look around us.

The recent floods in Pakistan submerged over one third of the country, forcing a shift in its status from exporter to importer of food products in the space of a few weeks.

The Paraná River, which transports 90% of Paraguay's international trade in agricultural products, 85% of that of Argentina and 50% of that of Bolivia, is facing droughts that are causing significant congestion and delays along inland waterways and at ports. The low water levels of the Danube and Yangtze are also affecting transport and supply chains.

There is even a risk that certain countries and economies, such as the Pacific Island countries, will lose everything: over 95% of infrastructure in the Marshall Islands, Kiribati and Tuvalu is located in coastal regions that are vulnerable to rising sea levels and extreme weather events.

Africa is of particular concern to us: the African Development Bank estimates that 5 to 15% of African growth is squandered due to climate change.

We need to act boldly and rapidly to confront this reality and turn trade into a fully sustainable economic activity. The private sector is leading and is already implementing huge investments for that purpose.

Trade policy must support and amplify this global effort. Bilateral and regional agreements have shown the way. This is now happening at the WTO.  

First, and most importantly, our members are showing their determination to act against climate change and for sustainability. We are already making good progress:

The recently concluded Fisheries Subsidies Agreement prohibits subsidies for illegal and unregulated fishing. It is the first WTO agreement with sustainability at its core. It will protect marine biodiversity and the interest of the 260 million women and men whose livelihoods depend on healthy oceans. 

There are three new initiatives on trade and environment sustainability, fossil fuel subsidies reform, and elimination of trade in polluting plastics, which are currently being held by  89 WTO Members representing approximately 90% of world trade.

Since our last Ministerial meeting in June, climate change is now being fully recognized as part of the WTO agenda, and many technical discussions are already happening in various fora within the WTO: goods, services, standards.

Second, our leadership is acutely aware and committed toward sustainable trade which we consider central for the future of trade and the fight against food insecurity. Our DG, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala will soon convey this message to the global community at COP 27 in Charm-El-Cheikh, Egypt next November. We will there launch our new World Trade Report, which this year will entirely be dedicated to the trade and climate change nexus.

Third, our civil societies constituents are on board and helping as everyone could see recently during our Public Forum.

I want to thank the campaigners who have been supporting the Fisheries Agreement and are again supporting actively the campaign for its swift ratification as well as the restart of the second phase of negotiations.

Thanks to businesses and business organisations for our dialogues on decarbonation of value chains, carbon standards, biodiversity, plastic pollution.

Thanks for the academic works from institutions which are giving food for thought to our negotiators and for the events and discussions that are being organised here in Geneva.

Last and central today I would like to express my profound appreciation to partners of the Multilateral Environmental Agreement (MEA) secretariats who are here today — UNEP, CITES, CBD, and BRS — for participating in this Panel on Trade and Environment Cooperation. The collaboration between the WTO and MEA secretariats dates back to 1995 and we have worked closely throughout the last 27 years.

I would also like to highlight particularly the very strong ties we have with UNEP with whom we are collaborating closely on a number of pressing issues. Together we already have been ahead of the curve as shown by our joint 2009 Trade and Climate Change report and our joint 2018 study on Making trade work for the environment, prosperity and resilience.  

So, you see, all stars have now aligned for a real change. What should the change be about?

In short, we have to boldly move a big step beyond what we have done in the past.

In the past, the law of the land was:  “the WTO does not stand in the way of environmental policies.” Some of you are familiar with, the old Appellate Body ruling in the 1998 “Shrimp — Turtle” case: it had made it clear that WTO Members can take trade actions to protect the environment by way of derogation from WTO rules.

For the future, the law of the land ought to be: “the WTO fully enables environment policies”. This is what our Members are now exploring: new initiatives that seek to cultivate and strengthen “positive” ways in which the WTO plays on the climate and sustainability challenges of our time.

Maybe more humanly and modestly, let's foster collaboration between the trade and environment communities, which is an essential driver of this change. Building these bridges is the raison d'être of the WTO environment week.

Ambassador Manley, dear Simon, you chair the committee whose work we are celebrating this week and as chair of the CTE you carry the huge responsibility of making all this happen. I just have one wish to formulate for this week:  let's move from contemplating problems to imagining solutions, from words to actions. Let's make it happen.

Ambassador Manley, dear Simon:  the CTE is a very inspiring committee and these are very inspiring times. This is a Members' driven Organisation: Chair, Members, please drive and drive fast!  

Thank you for your attention.




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