Thirteenth WTO Ministerial Conference

Thirteenth WTO Ministerial Conference Thirteenth WTO Ministerial Conference Thirteenth WTO Ministerial Conference

13th MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE : briefing note As of April 2024

Trade and environment

Governments increasingly see trade policies as important tools to combat climate change and other environmental challenges. Against this backdrop, discussions on trade and environmental sustainability have continued to intensify at the WTO and its ministerial conferences. At MC13, WTO members held for the first time dedicated discussions on sustainable development. Moreover, groups of WTO members presented concrete outcomes and next steps for their respective initiatives on plastics pollution, trade and environmental sustainability, and fossil fuel subsidies reform.

Previously, at MC12, WTO members recognized the global environmental challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution in the outcome document and noted the importance of the contribution of the multilateral trading system to promote the UN 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals. Members reaffirmed the importance of providing relevant support to developing members and least-developed country (LDC) members to achieve sustainable development and highlighted the role of the WTO Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE).

Building on the MC12 outcome document, members discussed draft language on trade and environment to be included in the MC13 final declaration to further guide the organization's work. Furthermore, in line with members' interest of holding high-level discussions on trade and environment, a first-ever "ministerial conversation" was held on the first day of MC13 on sustainable development.

In addition, three groups of WTO members presented at MC13 the progress they have made with their various initiatives and their work plans for the years ahead: the Dialogue on Plastics Pollution and Environmentally Sustainable Plastics Trade (DPP) which comprises 78 members; the Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussions (TESSD), which comprises 76 WTO members; and Fossil Fuel Subsidies Reform (FFSR), which comprises 48 WTO members.

On the final day of MC13 on 2 March 2024, WTO members adopted the Abu Dhabi Ministerial Declaration which includes the following paragraph: "In recalling the objectives in the Marrakesh Agreement and in recognising the role that the multilateral trading system can play in contributing towards the achievement of the UN 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals, in so far as they relate to the WTO mandate, we underscore the importance of trade and sustainable development in its three pillars – economic, social, and environmental."

WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in her MC13 closing speech said: "Organizing an interactive dialogue in a Ministerial Conference was an innovation, but it paid off. Ministers had a high demand to freely exchange perspectives, listened to each other, got a better understanding of each other's views and experiences."