WTO to ‘strengthen trade dimension’ of fight against plastics pollution

A group of World Trade Organization (WTO) members says it discussed a roadmap to strengthen the trade dimension of global efforts to tackle plastics pollution at a meeting last week.

The 18 participants of the IDP proposed sharing experience on data collection regarding plastic trade flows and supply chains

Launched in November 2020, the WTO’s Informal Dialogue on Plastics Pollution and Environmentally Sustainable Plastics Trade (IDP) seeks to address the rising environmental, health and economic cost of plastics pollution. It currently has 18 participants, including the UK.

On 22 October, the IDP discussed a draft ministerial statement listing the actions that participants would take from the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference in Geneva at the end of November onwards.

These actions include sharing experience on data collection regarding trade flows and supply chains, strengthening cooperation with other international regulatory processes, and identifying “environmentally sustainable” trade policies and mechanisms.

The draft statement stresses the need for strengthening technical assistance for vulnerable economies, including the WTO’s least developed members and small island developing states.

Australian ambassador George Mina, who chaired the meeting, said it was a strong statement which showed the “enthusiastic engagement” of participants and signified “a quite important moment in the WTO”.

He added: “The environment dimension had been thought of as a bit of an add-on for the trade regime in the past, but that’s changing.”


The WTO is an intergovernmental organisation that regulates and facilitates international trade between nations. Governments use the organisation to establish, revise, and enforce the rules that govern international trade. The UK has been a WTO member since January 1995.

Key topics identified by the IDP to be discussed in 2021 include: improving transparency; monitoring trade trends; promoting best practices; strengthening policy coherence; identifying the scope for collective approaches; assessing capacity and technical assistance needs; and cooperating with other international processes and efforts.

The 18 WTO members who currently co-sponsor the IDP are Australia, Barbados, Cabo Verde, Canada, the Central African Republic, China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Fiji, the Gambia, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Morocco, New Zealand, Russia, Switzerland, Thailand, and the UK.

The WTO needs to “continue complementing other international organisations’ work” and “galvanise more action and cooperation through the IDP”, several stakeholders are reported to have told the meeting on 22 October.

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