INFORMAL DIALOGUE ON PLASTICS POLLUTION AND ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSTAINABLE PLASTICS TRADE
The three co-coordinators of the IDP - Ecuador, China and Australia - drew attention to the IDP Ministerial Statement announced in December 2021 and the launch of three workstreams in March 2022 as a first step towards implementing the Statement.
The co-coordinators reiterated the severity and urgency of the global plastics pollution problem and highlighted recent major developments, notably the launch of negotiations on a global agreement on plastics pollution, which sets an ambitious goal of reaching a binding agreement by 2024. They emphasised the need for WTO members to consider the IDP's role in global actions and how trade tools can unlock barriers, facilitate trade in environmental goods and services and promote technology transfer.
DDG Zhang stressed the importance of keeping the IDP as an open platform for all members. He highlighted the need to continue engaging more developing members, least developed members and small delegations, who are the most vulnerable to the threat of massive plastics pollution. DDG Zhang's full remarks are here.
Facilitator's report of the first workstream meeting
Australia reported the key takeaways from the first workstream meeting held on 18 March. It said the meeting generated a rich discussion, with the sharing of some leading institutions' studies and projects to reduce plastics waste. It noted the strong call from all participants for more collaboration and cooperation, and for recognition of the WTO's role in contributing trade policy tools to global efforts to combat plastics pollution.
The three workstreams address specific topics identified in the IDP Ministerial Statement. These include cross-cutting issues such as technical assistance, international cooperation and transparency, issues in relation to promoting trade's role in tackling plastic pollution in areas such as waste management, recycling, effective substitutes and alternatives, and issues regarding circularity and environmentally sustainable plastics trade.
Presentations and discussions
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the WTO's Aid for Trade initiative, the United Nations Environment Programme and the Forum on Trade, Environment and the Sustainable Development Goals provided their perspectives on how trade and trade policies can contribute to tackling plastic pollution.
Several members, encompassing developed and developing countries, took the floor to share their domestic approaches for better waste management and a smooth transformation towards environmentally sustainable plastics trade and a circular economy.
Participants welcomed the experiences and suggestions shared by members and external stakeholders. They agreed that one of the first tasks for the IDP is to enhance transparency, with some suggesting building a repository of data and sharing best practices.
Members reaffirmed the importance of fostering mutually complementary relations between the IDP and other international organizations. They highlighted the role that the WTO could play, through the IDP, in supporting the multilateral negotiation process at the United Nations by contributing trade policy tools to the final binding agreement on addressing plastics pollution. Furthermore, the IDP's work should contribute a regulatory framework and policy levers to other ongoing international actions, such as the Harmonized System (HS codes) reforms at the World Customs Organization and the Basel Convention Plastic Waste Amendments, they said.
Some delegations underscored the need for undertaking deeper discussions on how to minimize the use of single-use plastic products, promote plastics substitutes and alternative materials and facilitate technology transfer by leveraging trade policies in goods and services. A number of delegations pointed to the broad scope for the WTO's Aid for Trade initiative — through its Global Review and joint workshops — and the IDP to work together in tackling financing issues and technology gaps.
The next IDP plenary meeting is tentatively scheduled for 25 May.
About the IDP
To date, 70 WTO members have joined the IDP, including three new co-sponsors: Bolivia, the Maldives and Angola.
More information is available on the IDP's dedicated page.