China, US welcomed as new participants in trade and environmental sustainability talks

WTO members taking part in the new initiative on trade and environmental sustainability welcomed China and the United States as new co-sponsors for the discussions at their meeting on November 4, 2021. Participants also expressed broad support for a draft ministerial statement that would set out future work for the initiative in areas such as trade and climate change as well as fix a road map for advancing discussions in 2022.China, US welcomed as new participants in trade and environmental sustainability talks.

Ambassador Gloria Abraham Peralta of Costa Rica welcomed the addition of both China and the United States as co-sponsors of the initiative, known as the Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussions (TESSD), saying that it showed participants are “on the right track”. She also noted the growing calls for immediate action on climate-related issues emerging from the ongoing UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow.

“As we gather here, we hear the message from Glasgow getting louder and louder: the time to act is now,” Ambassador Abraham Peralta declared. “We are faced with a unique opportunity to recognize the role that trade and trade policy have in supporting not only environmental and climate objectives, but also the responsibility they have in achieving the (UN) Sustainable Development Goals. We also have the ability to demonstrate political will by supporting the ministerial statement, and it is in our hands to make trade part of the solution to climate change.”

Ambassador Stephen de Boer of Canada, the co-coordinator with Costa Rica, thanked all the participants for their engagement and support in the drafting of the statement, which is set to be adopted prior to the start of the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) on November 30 to December 3.

“We believe that together we’ve crafted a strong statement that will serve as a solid foundation for our work post MC12,” Ambassador de Boer said.  “And with your green light, we will intensify our efforts towards bringing additional members into the fold.”

“Growing the number of co-sponsors and bringing new voices into the conversation will help to strengthen the TESSD as a place to generate ideas. We truly believe that the WTO can play a role in addressing the pressing challenges that face the world today,” he added.

Eighteen of the participating WTO members took the floor to comment. While a few drafting suggestions were made, participants expressed broad support for the draft ministerial statement, which is expected to be finalised shortly. Several said the text should facilitate expanded participation in the TESSD, particularly among the organisation’s poorer and more vulnerable members.

Representatives from international organisations and civil society taking part in the meeting also welcomed the draft ministerial statement and underlined the importance of a balanced and meaningful statement that can attract the support of a broad diversity of the WTO membership.

Ambassador de Boer said the co-coordinators had held consultations with the participants and took their comments into account when drafting the ministerial statement, and that the co-sponsors had tried to ensure broad appeal.

“We hope that members will see this statement for what it is intended to be, as a restatement of our commitment to engagement on environmental issues at the WTO and as a strong basis for our continued efforts post-MC12,” he said.

“We believe that we have a text that is robust, inclusive and offers sufficient room for manoeuvre for the entire membership,” Ambassador Abraham Peralta declared. “We hope that you share this vision as well.”

Launched in November 2020, TESSD is intended to complement the existing work of the WTO’s Committee on Trade and Environment and other relevant WTO committees and bodies. The initiative, which is open to all members, seeks to promote transparency and information sharing, identifying areas for future work within the WTO. It also seeks to support technical assistance and capacity building needs, particularly for least-developed countries, and to work on deliverables for environmental sustainability in the various areas of the WTO. A total of 56 WTO members currently participate in the discussions.

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