Plastics pollution and environmentally sustainable plastics trade *

A group of WTO members launched in November 2020 an initiative to explore how the WTO could contribute to efforts to reduce plastics pollution and promote the transition to more environmentally sustainable trade in plastics. The Dialogue on Plastics Pollution and Environmentally Sustainable Plastics Trade is open to all WTO members and seeks to complement discussions in the Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE) and other fora.



As of February 2024, WTO members are participating in the dialogue.


26 January: Plenary meeting

Documents issued by the Dialogue

Objective of the talks

In their joint communication to the CTE after their inaugural meeting in November 2020 during the WTO Trade and Environment Week, the participants noted that the rising environmental, health and economic cost of plastics pollution — amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic — is of increasing concern to all countries, large and small, developed and developing.

They highlighted that, given the growing need for coordinated global action, the group would seek to identify opportunities for enhanced trade cooperation within the rules and mechanisms of the WTO to contribute to domestic, regional and global efforts to reduce plastics pollution and to support efforts in other fora. The dialogue is intended to be part of broader WTO discussions to advance environmental sustainability objectives.

Ministerial Statement

A Ministerial Statement issued in December 2021 sets out a roadmap and identifies some key areas on which the Dialogue will focus. These include: how to improve transparency of plastic trade flows, supply chains and trade policies; strengthening regulatory cooperation with other international bodies; identifying environmentally sustainable trade policies and mechanisms; and strengthening trade-related technical assistance for vulnerable economies, including least-developed countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

Three workstreams were created by the IDP 2022 Plan adopted in February 2022 to move technical work forward: cross-cutting issues (e.g. transparency, technical assistance); promoting trade to tackle plastic pollution; and reduction to tackle plastic pollution and circular economy for plastics. The initiative's inclusive approach involves relevant stakeholders from the private sector, civil society, international organizations and academia who support discussions through technical expertise, experience and transparency.

State of play

The Dialogue has underlined the importance of having a comprehensive mapping of the full plastics value chain life cycle — including “hidden flows” of trade in “embedded plastics” — and analysis of the opportunities and challenges it presents. To this end, the Dialogue has strengthened its collaboration with other international processes and organizations – in particular, the World Customs Organization (WCO) communication on 8 June 2022 (INF/TE/IDP/W/6/Rev.1), cooperation on United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) negotiations towards a new internationally binding instrument by 2024 to end plastic pollution and efforts under the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.

The Dialogue has taken a number of tangible steps to implement the Ministerial Statement. These were presented in a press briefing at the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) in June 2022 through a 'Ministerial Statement by coordinators' highlighting the following early harvests to be reaped before MC13:

* The documents on this page relate to an initiative among a group of WTO members and are not part of a multilaterally agreed WTO process. Back to text

Launch event of Ministerial Statements – TESSD, IDP, and FFSR

09:30-11:00, Wednesday 15 December 2021

Ministerial Statements

Building on the momentum of the positive work already undertaken under each of these three initiatives to position trade as part of the solution for environmental challenges, this joint event recognizes the important achievements supported by a large diversity of members and provides an opportunity to publicly launch the Ministerial Statements on Trade and Environmental Sustainability, Plastic Pollution and Environmentally Sustainable Plastics Trade, as well as Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform.



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