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17 April 2024

TESS Contributes to Working Group Meetings of the WTO Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussions

TESS was pleased to contribute to the WTO Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussions (TESSD) informal working group meetings on 15–16 April 2024. At the meetings, we provided comments on ways forward in each of the working groups following the TESSD statement the updated work plan issued at MC13.

At the Thirteenth WTO Ministerial Conference (MC13), the co-convenors of TESSD issued a statement, an updated work plan, and a series of outcome documents summarizing the work of its four working groups on environmental goods and services, trade‑related climate measures, circular economy – circularity, and subsidies. Importantly, the co-convenor statements emphasized the goal of delivering concrete results by MC14.

At the first working group meetings convened since the ministerial summit in Abu Dhabi, we commended the TESSD convenors and members for these documents and the renewed impetus provided in guiding discussions towards concrete outcomes.

In that spirit, our statements in the four working groups focused on ways forward, emphasizing that deliberations in TESSD will need to move towards specific discussions on possible options for collective action and results.

In the Working Group on Environmental Goods and Services, for example, we suggested that to achieve this aim there is a need to go beyond a mapping of goods, services, technologies, and associated obstacles to trade and may require more emphasis on what could be achieved collaboratively. We provided examples of what this could include.

In the Working Group on Subsidies, among other suggestions, we encouraged members to focus on agricultural subsidies and green industrial subsidies and to further focus deliberations on identifying best practices and guidance on the design of subsidy schemes based on assessments of their likely or potential impacts both on the environment and their implications for trading partners.

In the Working Group on Circular Economy – Circularity, beyond putting forward a set of concrete areas of focus, we noted that TESS has mobilized a group of leading experts to offer guidance on good practices and approaches in the design and implementation of trade-related circular economy policies. The expert group will issue a report that will support working group discussions.

Finally, in the Working Group on Trade-related Climate Measures, we suggested, among other ideas, that members consider the work of the international legal expert group on trade-related climate measures and policies convened by TESS in 2023, which noted six principles as relevant for consideration in the design and implementation of such measures.

In a previous statement issued at the TESSD Plenary meeting in January 2024, we suggested that to give renewed impetus to the work of TESSD, co-conveners consider a stocktaking exercise, possibly at the end of 2024. This would coincide with the end of the first three years of work of the TESSD initiative and could provide an opportunity for members to focus on specific actions or recommendations and support preparations for concrete outcomes for MC14 along with a robust work plan for the next phase of work.

You can access news and documents related to TESSD and its working groups here.

We encourage you to read our statement in full.

TESS at the World Trade Organization

This work is part of our initiative supporting inclusive cooperation on trade, environment, and sustainable development at the WTO.