INFORMAL DIALOGUE ON PLASTICS POLLUTION AND ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSTAINABLE PLASTICS TRADE
A number of co-coordinators and facilitators, including Australia, Ecuador, China, the United Kingdom and Colombia, said the plastics talks have come a long way since its inception in 2020, including issuing a landmark Ministerial Statement in 2021. Because of its clear targets and the high level of consensus among members, the Dialogue can set a good example for other initiatives that aim to leverage trade to address environmental challenges, they said.
The facilitators of the three work streams established following the Ministerial Statement highlighted their respective areas of focus and shared their views on the next steps. The three work streams cover cross-cutting issues such as international cooperation, capacity building and transparency, issues related to reduction of plastic pollution and a full life-cycle approach to eliminating such pollution and issues regarding promotion of environmentally sustainable trade in plastic alternatives and substitutes.
China, a co-coordinator, stressed the importance of enhancing the Dialogue's interlinkages with other international processes, particularly global plastic reduction via the ongoing United Nations multilateral negotiations that aim to reach a binding deal by 2024.
Australia, also a coordinator, suggested that a potential area of work for the Dialogue is to build on the fruitful results of the first workshop in December 2022, and to work on narrowing down and refining an evolving list of plastic substitutes and alternatives already traded.
Ecuador, another coordinator, asked the co-sponsors to actively engage in the two ongoing surveys launched by the WTO Secretariat, which aim to collect up-to-date data and support well-informed negotiations. It also invited co-sponsors and stakeholders to suggest ideas for the upcoming workshop, which will focus on plastics reduction.
Summarizing the key outcomes from the first meeting of the UN Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) — the UN process responsible for crafting a legally binding instrument by the end of 2024 to end plastic pollution — the INC Executive Secretary Ms Jyoti Mathur-Filipp provided updates on the preparations for the second meeting of the INC, slated for May/June 2023. She also made a call for submissions from stakeholders and member states to help sketch out the contours of the agreement, which already includes many trade elements.
The Secretariat presented its latest findings from the Aid for Trade Needs Assessment Survey and the Trade-related Plastic Measures (TrPMs) Survey. The Secretariat highlighted five main trends, indicating most measures deal with single-use plastic products, packaging, waste management, recycling and eco-design. These trends are based on data from the WTO environmental database and the replies to the survey
A number of organizations presented their recent studies and projects on a wide range of topics, such as plastic packaging in global trade, plastic waste management, assistance to developing countries, and customs guidance on plastic trade. In particular, illegal trade in plastic waste and health aspects of plastics trade were discussed — two relatively new issues in the Dialogue. Some of the speakers also made initial suggestions on possible outcomes at the next Ministerial Conference
The participants welcomed the rich information shared at the meeting and expressed their support for close cooperation between the Dialogue and the INC process. Some participants also noted the prominent mentions of trade in stakeholders' INC submissions and the well-elaborated full life-cycle approach to addressing plastic pollution in many proposals.
Some participants suggested using the findings of the surveys as topics for the next workshop. They also took up broader issues, such as the production and trade of single-use plastics, the role of the private sector, best practices sharing, and the special needs of developing countries.
The co-coordinators asked participants to deliberate on what steps can be taken in the run-up to MC13, a topic that will be the focus of the discussion at the next meeting scheduled for 13 March. We should avail ourselves of the strong political will and engagement of many members to achieve meaningful results at MC13 and to contribute to the critical INC process, they said.
About the Plastics Dialogue
To date, 75 WTO members have joined the Dialogue, representing roughly 75% of global plastics trade.
All presentations will be available on the Dialogue's dedicated page.
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