INFORMAL DIALOGUE ON PLASTICS POLLUTION AND ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSTAINABLE PLASTICS TRADE
Ecuador and China, co-coordinators of the IDP, summarized the initiative's work since the beginning of the year. They highlighted the drafting of a work plan to implement the Ministerial Statement issued at the end of 2021 and the launch of workstreams to conduct technical discussions and to identify priorities for future work. They also outlined some major developments in international fora in parallel with the IDP, notably the launch of negotiations at the UN's Environment Assembly (UNEA) in March, which have the aim of reaching a global deal on plastics pollution by 2024. They also drew attention to the upcoming Conference of the Parties (COP) meetings of the Basel, Rotterdam and the Stockholm Conventions (BRS) and the 2022 UN Ocean Conference in June.
They urged the IDP participants to seize the opportunity provided by a favourable international climate for the fight against plastic pollution. This global endeavour needs “all hands on deck” and “the WTO is more important than ever”, China said. “The IDP's work can help to identify challenges and opportunities on trade and value chain aspects” that can inform other international processes, including the UNEA negotiations, China added. Ecuador noted that with MC12 just three weeks away, the group should “work on the results that the initiative will present at the Conference”, focusing on what the group had been able to “consolidate in the almost six months of work since the adoption of the Statement”.
DDG Paugam pointed out the importance of addressing plastic waste across the full life cycle of plastics, stressing that the initiative generates trade solutions and supports complementary international processes and activities. To that end, transparency is crucial, he said, suggesting that the IDP establish a global plastic value chain portal to monitor plastic trade flows and to share trade-related policies and measures. Many participants expressed strong support for the data portal.
Participants also welcomed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the latest member to join the IDP.
“Early harvest” actions and next steps
Australia, another co-coordinator of the IDP, facilitated the discussion regarding the next concrete steps proposed by coordinators and facilitators to implement the group's Ministerial Statement and to address plastics pollution.
The World Customs Organization (WCO) introduced the latest progress made in the amendment to the definition of plastic wastes in Harmonised System (HS) tariff codes in support of the Basel Convention Plastics Amendment. It underlined that the aim is to establish new sub-headings to identify different types of plastic products and to help trace trade flows of plastic wastes once the amendment is completed for the HS 2027 reform.
China, on behalf of the co-coordinators, presented a draft communication to WCO(INF/TE/IDP/W/6) offering support to ensuring the better classification and greater transparency of plastics flows across their whole life cycle. The document proposes concrete actions, including joint workshops with the WCO and identifying value chain actors and trade-related plastic measures that are relevant to the work of customs officials.
Some proponents welcomed the draft communication as an exemplary step in enhancing collaboration with international organizations such as the WCO. A few proponents said they still need to consult with their capital before the IDP officially submits the document to the WCO.
Portugal outlined plans for the 2022 UN Ocean Conference to be held on 27 June — 1 July in Lisbon. BRS briefed participants on the plastic-related elements of the upcoming triple COPs on 6-17 June in Geneva. UNEP noted the upcoming preparatory meeting under the UNEA process to negotiate a new legally binding instrument, to which the WTO had been invited to contribute trade expertise. A few other organizations, including the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the Forum on Trade, Environment & the SDGs and the International Institute for Sustainable Development, also provided an update on their recent studies and activities on the theme of plastic.
Transparency surveys on plastic measures and aid needs
Participants heard an update on other IDP-led activities that will also form part of the next steps for the IDP to implement the Ministerial Statement. These include the Aid for Trade review and needs assessment survey (INF/TE/IDP/W/8), a proposed event at the 8th Aid for Trade Global Review in July, a survey of members' trade-related plastics measures (INF/TE/IDP/W/7) and a workshop on sustainable and effective plastic substitutes and alternatives.
Proponents showed clear support for the proposed surveys and events. They said that these actions will help to reveal the full picture of trade flows of plastic materials and to build a good foundation for seeking trade-related solutions to address plastic pollution.
Some participants suggested involving more stakeholders in surveys, not requiring replies that are too detailed and avoiding duplication of work. A few delegates underscored the need for not losing sight of the full life cycle issue while tackling specific aspects of plastic value chains and ensuring environmental soundness (e.g. plastic substitutes and alternatives). Some also suggested making better use of the existing Aid for Trade programmes to meet the specific needs of least-developed countries in mitigating plastic pollution.
Plans for MC12
Australia thanked participants for the fruitful discussion and said that the IDP plans to circulate three documents before MC12, namely the communication to the WCO and the two surveys highlighted above. It stated that co-coordinators are considering how best to reflect progress of the initiative at MC12.
The next IDP plenary meeting is tentatively scheduled for 6 October.
About the IDP
To date, 71 WTO members have joined the IDP, representing roughly 75% of global plastics trade.
More information is available on the IDP's dedicated page.