“We need to act boldly and rapidly to confront this reality and turn trade into a fully sustainable economic activity,” Deputy Director-General Jean-Marie Paugam said, noting that the WTO must fully enable sustainability policies. He noted growing efforts at the WTO, including the recently concluded Fisheries Subsidies Agreement, three new initiatives on trade and environmental sustainability, fossil fuel subsidies reform, and plastic pollution, and continuing collaboration with civil society, businesses and secretariats of various multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs).

“Trade policy must support and amplify this global effort. This is a member-driven organization. Members, please drive and drive fast!” the Deputy Director-General said. His full speech is available here.

The chair of the WTO Committee on Trade and Environment, Ambassador Simon Manley of the United Kingdom, highlighted the need for shared solutions and for support for developing country members: “What we are discussing here reveals some of those fundamental truths about the dilemma of the global commons. Therefore, it is inherently an area where we need greater global cooperation,” he said.

“The WTO can be that place, that global forum for cooperation. And in all of this, it is so important that we focus on the way we can enable developing countries, particularly least-developed countries, to make that transition,” the chair said.

Leaders from other multilateral organizations further emphasized the urgency of cooperation in the face of environmental degradation and pointed to the role trade can play.

“It is true that we live in unprecedented and difficult times. Rising food and energy prices have been exacerbated by conflicts and the economic devastation caused by the global pandemic. We are seeing just how vulnerable global patterns of trade, consumption and production are to these and other shocks,” Sonja Leighton-Kone, Acting Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said. “Building greater resilience for our global economy can only be done by creating more coherence between trade, finance, development and the environment. Trade and environment ministers should come together to the table for this end,” she said.

For Rolph Payet — Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam, Stockholm Conventions — international cooperation in trade is likewise critical to ensure the effectiveness of global waste management: “There is as much illegal transboundary movement of waste as there is legal. We can design all these wonderful international instruments for circularity but if there are leakages in the system, then we won't be able to achieve the targets that we've set. These initiatives really show how we need to continue working together.”

Ivonne Higuero, Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), drew attention to falling animal populations. “A major report showed that some populations of animals have dropped by around 70% in the past 50 years. Let's be clear, these numbers cannot be sustained. We are in a time of crisis and we either act now, or a different kind of action will be forced upon us just a little later down the road. Of course, we see that partnerships and collaboration are the way out of these crises,” she said, urging the continuing need to crack down on illegal trade of wildlife.

Trade policy, furthermore, can be harnessed to address biodiversity loss, with the WTO's new Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies setting an important precedent, David Cooper, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, said. “If we want to achieve the 2030 agenda and the vision to live in harmony with nature, we will need to halt the loss of biodiversity. The international trade regime can contribute. I hope that we can build on successes and further replicate and scale up contributions in the remainder of this decade,” he said.

WTO Trade and Environment Division Director Aik Hoe Lim, who moderated the event, remarked that the collaboration between WTO, UNEP and MEA secretariats has grown from strength to strength. The many events at Trade and Environment Week is testimony to how important the cooperation has been for supporting the organizations' respective memberships, he said.

A video recording of the event is available here.

The programme for the rest of Trade and Environment Week, which is open to the public, is available here.




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