Structured discussions

Joint Initiative Trade and environmental sustainability

Fifty WTO members announced on 17 November 2020 their intention to intensify work on trade and environmental sustainability at the WTO by organizing “structured discussions” for interested WTO members as well as a dialogue with external stakeholders. The Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussions (TESSD) are intended to complement the work of the Committee on Trade and Environment and other relevant WTO bodies and to support the objectives of the Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the WTO, which envisages a global trading system that protects and preserves the environment in accordance with sustainable development.

The Ministerial Statement adopted in 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.



There are currently WTO members participating in the Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussions, including members from all regions and at all levels of development: least developed countries (LDCs), developing countries and developed countries. Ambassador Stephen de Boer (Canada) and Ambassador Gloria Abraham Peralta (Costa Rica) jointly coordinate this initiative, which is open to all WTO members.


4 November

16-17 September

19 July

26-28 May

5 March

Scope of the discussions

In a joint communication issued in November 2020 during WTO Trade and Environment Week 2020, the 50 co-sponsors said they would collaborate to identify areas for future work to help the WTO address sustainable development challenges more effectively and would work on possible environmental sustainability “actions and deliverables”.

In addition, the co-sponsors noted their willingness to work alongside relevant international organizations and other actors to support the technical assistance and capacity-building needs on trade and environmental sustainability of least-developed countries (LDCs) and other WTO members. The joint communication also highlights the intention to promote transparency through intensified dialogue and information sharing.

State of play

To organize their work, the participants have launched "structured discussions" for interested WTO members. These discussions include a dialogue with the business community, civil society, international organizations and academic institutions. These efforts seek to complement and support the work of other WTO committees and bodies, including the Committee on Trade and Environment.

During the four TESSD meetings held so far in 2021, participants have discussed topics such as trade-related climate measures, sustainable supply chains, environmental goods and services, circular economy, green aid for trade, fossil fuel subsidy reform, and sustainable food and agriculture. Opportunities and challenges for sustainable trade for developing countries and LDCs have been given consideration across these topics.

At a joint event on 15 December 2021, co-sponsors of three environmental initiatives - TESSD, the Informal Dialogue on Plastics Pollution and Sustainable Plastics Trade (IDP), and Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform (FFSR) - launched their respective Ministerial Statements. WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala joined ministers from the initiative co-coordinators, heads of international organizations and representatives from business and civil society groups in welcoming the initiatives and highlighting that trade, and the WTO, are part of the solution to climate change and environmental degradation.

The TESSD Ministerial Statement (WT/MIN(21)/6/Rev.2) of the Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussions (TESSD) has 71 co-sponsors, which account for around 84% of global trade. The Statement sets out future work for the initiative in areas such as trade and climate change, trade in environmental goods and services, circular economy, sustainable supply chains, capacity building and technical assistance for sustainable trade, and subsidies. It also foresees a high-level stocktaking event towards the end of 2022.

The TESSD Work Plan 2022 (INF/TE/SSD/W/17/Rev.1) provides for the creation of Informal Working Groups on (i) trade-related climate measures; (ii) environmental goods and services; (iii) circular economy - circularity; and (iv) subsidies, to allow for more in-depth discussions and make progress towards tangible outcomes. Working Groups will be led by facilitators, who will report back to formal TESSD meetings.

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 will recognize the important achievements supported by a large diversity of Members and provide 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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