TRADE AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY STRUCTURED DISCUSSIONS
The draft plan presented to members outlines six proposed thematic work areas for the formal meetings of the Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussions (TESSD), which now counts 71 WTO members as co-sponsors. The thematic work areas, outlined in a joint Ministerial Statement launched together with two other environmental statements at an event in December, would address the following:
- dedicated discussions on trade-related climate measures and policies
- promoting and facilitating trade in environmental goods and services
- achieving a more resource-efficient circular economy
- promoting sustainable supply chains and addressing challenges and opportunities arising from the use of sustainability standards and related measures, in particular for developing members
- challenges and opportunities for sustainable trade — capacity building and technical assistance (Aid for Trade)
- environmental effects and trade impacts of relevant subsidies.
Three more formal TESSD meetings are due to be held during the course of 2022, with a high-level stocktaking event taking place at the end of the year. Stakeholders from academia, international organizations, civil society, non-governmental organizations and the business community will be invited to contribute to formal TESSD meetings in order to enhance discussions through technical expertise, experience and transparency.
In conjunction with the formal TESSD meetings, informal working groups would meet to have more in-depth discussions and advance work under three general headings: trade related climate measures; environmental goods and services; and circular economy/circularity.
Delegations expressed broad support for the draft work plan, also indicating their priorities in terms of thematic areas and providing suggestions on guiding questions for the working groups. A number of developed and developing members expressed support for the creation of a fourth informal working group on the environmental effects and trade impacts of relevant subsidies.
Ambassador Gloria Abraham Peralta of Costa Rica, the co-convenor of the TESSD discussions, said the participants' exchanges on the work plan were important in finding the direction of discussions for the coming year.
“What is of interest to us is to facilitate the participation of as many members as possible in the discussions and also for the number of co-sponsors to continue to increase so that we have a wider variety of perspectives and viewpoints from smaller groups,” she said.
TESSD co-chair Ambassador Stephen De Boer of Canada added: “It's been very encouraging to see the level of engagement by members and stakeholders and hear about the wide range of interests that you hope to advance in the near term”. He continued: “We need to move forward now to deepen our discussions and to begin to work towards positive outcomes.” He also noted that the co-convenors would revise the draft work plan as soon as possible to take account of the questions and views raised during the meeting.
The meeting also saw a presentation by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) on a study titled “The Circular Economy and International Trade: Options for the World Trade Organization”.
The TESSD discussions were launched in November 2020 with the aim of complementing the existing work of the WTO's Committee on Trade and Environment and other relevant WTO committees and bodies. The initiative seeks to promote transparency and information sharing, identifying areas for future work within the WTO. It also seeks to support technical assistance and capacity building needs, particularly for least-developed countries, and to work on deliverables for environmental sustainability in the various areas of the WTO.The Ministerial Statement on Trade and Environmental Sustainability issued by the TESSD proponents in December 2021 sets out future work for the initiative in areas such as trade and climate change, trade in environmental goods and services, circular economy, and sustainable supply chains. It also fixes a road map for advancing discussion