Ecuador's Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Luis Vayas addressed the participants in person, underlining the importance of addressing the entire life cycle of plastics as the Dialogue moves forward.  He also stressed the need for the participation of a variety of stakeholders in the discussions, who have a great deal to contribute to the process, he said.

China, as co-coordinator of the Dialogue, noted that not only were there now 75 WTO members co-sponsoring the initiative but that many WTO members who are not co-sponsors were also actively participating in and closely following the discussions. In the meantime, more and more outside stakeholders were joining the Dialogue, China noted. China also highlighted three key elements for the initiative's next steps: delineate the outcomes for MC13; cooperate with other international processes; and encourage the participation of an increasing number of members.

Morocco, another co-coordinator, noted that the importance of the Dialogue in addressing the issue of plastics pollution was underlined by a recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development which warned that the amount of plastic waste produced globally is on track to almost triple by 2060, with around half ending up in landfill and less than a fifth recycled.

The Dialogue was launched in November 2020 to explore how the WTO could contribute to efforts to reduce plastics pollution and promote the transition to more environmentally sustainable trade in plastics. Open to all WTO members, the initiative seeks to complement discussions in the WTO's Committee on Trade and Environment and other fora.

The Dialogue coordinators issued a Ministerial Statement on 13 June illustrating some early results of the initiative and reaffirming their commitment to strengthen work on how to tackle the immense challenges posed by plastic pollution.  Ministers pledged concrete steps to deepen engagement with other global initiatives in addressing plastics pollution, outlined steps to strengthen transparency, technical discussions and trade-related capacity building, and confirmed the Dialogue will continue to be an open, inclusive and transparent process, with a view to generating further concrete outcomes by MC13.

Part of the 11 October plenary was dedicated to briefings from facilitators regarding the “workstream” discussions which took place at pre-plenary meetings held on 19 and 20 September. The pre-plenary was chaired by Colombia, Philippines and Fiji, was open to all WTO members and included a series of technical and scientific contributions from stakeholders.

Colombia reported on workstream discussions dedicated to reduction of plastics pollution and circular economy for plastics.  The workstream was divided into two main areas:  first, an update from the WTO Secretariat on its ongoing survey of members regarding trade-related plastics measures; and secondly, technical presentations from different stakeholders and experts on their latest activities in reducing plastic pollution.

The Philippines reported on the workstream discussions on promoting trade to tackle plastic pollution.  The discussions included presentations by the business community on trade-related challenges and opportunities to reduce harmful plastics use through the adoption of alternatives to plastics and plastic packaging and the increased use of recycled content.

The WTO Secretariat briefed participants on the pre-plenary session dedicated to cross-cutting issues. This included an update from the Secretariat of the United Nations Environment Programme on the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) negotiations to secure an internationally legal binding instrument by 2024 to end plastic pollution. The session also featured a presentation by the World Customs Organization on the first WCO Global Green Customs Conference in June and an update from Portugal on the plastic-related outcomes of the Oceans Conference held in Lisbon from 27 June to 1 July 2022. In addition, the session included a briefing by Ecuador on the Dialogue side event on plastics during the WTO's Eighth Aid for Trade Global Review in late July. and a briefing from the World Bank Group on trade-related aspects of their programmes to address plastic pollution, particularly in the Asia Pacific region.

More than a dozen participating WTO members as well as stakeholder groups took the floor to comment on the facilitator reports and to offer their views on the issues discussed.  An overview of the discussions at the pre-plenary meeting is available here.

In concluding the meeting, Australia, another co-coordinator of the Dialogue, said the Dialogue was well-placed to make a meaningful contribution to the problem of plastic pollution.  It noted the need for continued engagement and for participants to work collaboratively and collectively towards achieving the mandate set out by their ministers at MC12.  

The next plenary meeting of the Dialogue will take place on 7 December. A special WTO workshop, in cooperation with UNCTAD, on environmentally sustainable and effective plastic alternatives and substitutes is planned for 6 December.

More information is available on the Dialogue's dedicated page.




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