Expert round-table

Promoting and facilitating trade in environmental goods and services

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The Forum on Trade, Environment and the SDGs (TESS) organised a ‘deep dive’ workshop on “Promoting and facilitating trade in environmental goods and services (EGS)” in Geneva on 23 and 24 June 2022. As a contribution to ongoing reflections at the WTO, this workshop brought together 20 leading experts from think tanks, international organizations and around 30 representatives of WTO members for in-depth discussion in an informal and off-the-record “retreat mode.”

Spurred by the mounting impacts of climate change, pollution and nature loss, governments face the urgent challenge of fostering a more environmentally sustainable, inclusive and resilient global economy. Achieving such a transformation and a just transition, particularly for the most vulnerable economies, will require a significant scaling up of the production, dissemination, transfer and uptake of environmentally sound technologies, goods and services around the world.

At the World Trade Organization (WTO), there is renewed discussion on how governments can cooperate to facilitate and promote trade in environmental goods and services. This topic arises in the regular work of the WTO Committee on Trade and Environment, as well as in the Committee on Trade in Services, among others. Alongside, the Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussion (TESSD) and the Informal Dialogue on Plastics Pollution and Environmentally Sustainable Plastics Trade (IDP) each seek to identify ways to bolster cooperation on trade in environmental goods and services.

Over the past year, discussions at the WTO have highlighted the interest of many members in a broad approach that considers issues related to tariff and non-tariff measures; cooperation on regulation, standards, investment and financing; sustainable supply chains; as well as technology transfer and technical assistance. A number of governments and stakeholders have called for approaches that start with a focus on specific environmental challenges to be addressed; consider the environmental impacts of goods and services across their life cycles; and ensure attention to the specific challenges, opportunities and priorities identified by developing countries.

Topics addressed at the workshop included:

  • options for grounding discussions in ways that respond to specific environmental challenges (such as climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss) and sustainable development priorities.
  • approaches to defining the scope of EGS at different stages of value chains in regard to specific environmental challenges, sectors or products.
  • options for addressing tariff and non-tariff issues relevant to trade in EGS as well as intersecting issues such as technology transfer, financing and technical assistance that impact EGS production, access, uptake and export.
  • approaches that could attract broad-based support among WTO Members, with a focus on developing countries interests and on common goals.

Topics were introduced briefly by ‘thought starter’ presenters followed by an open interaction among participants based on a set of guiding questions. The slides presented by the discussion starters and discussants can be downloaded from this page.

 

The workshop agenda was as follows: 

DAY 1: 23 June

9:00 – 9:15 Welcome remarks by the organizers

9:15 – 10:30 Session 1: Setting the stage

This session provided an overview of the current state of play in multilateral discussions around environmental goods and services, including recent developments in the context of the Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussion (TESSD) and the Informal Dialogue on Plastic and Environmentally Sustainable Plastic Trade (IDP). 

Discussion starters (5 min each):

  • Helga Helland, Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Norway and Carlos Guevara, First Secretary, Permanent Mission of Ecuador:  State of play of EGS discussions under TESSD
  • Rhys Pogonoski, Second Secretary, Permanent Mission of Australia: State of play of EGS-related discussions under IDP
  • Rainer Lanz, Economics Affairs Officer, World Trade Organization (WTO) Secretariat: State of play of multilateral discussions in the WTO

Open discussion among delegations

10:30 – 11.00 Coffee/tea

11:00 – 13:00 Session 2: Lessons from experiences at the regional level to facilitate trade and investment in EGS

This session drew lessons from past initiatives on EGS in the context of RTAs and their role as incubator and laboratory of new ideas and approaches to facilitating trade and investment in EGS. It also reviewed existing experiences and impacts of trade in environmental goods and services.

Discussion starters (7-8 min each):

  • Christophe Bellmann, Head of Policy Analysis and Strategy, Forum on Trade, Environment and the SDGs (TESS): Lessons learned from RTAs in facilitating trade in EGS
  • Clara Brandi, Head of Research Programme, Transformation of Economic and Social Systems, German Development Institute (DIE): Evidence on trade and environmental impact of EGS efforts to date
  • Carlos Kuriyama, Senior Analyst, Policy Support Unit, APEC Secretariat: Benefits of increased trade in environmental goods and services, experiences from the APEC region

Discussants (3-5 min each):

  • Ronald Steenblik, Senior Fellow, International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
  • Pierre SauvéTrade and Investment Practice, World Bank

Open discussion among delegations

13:00 – 14:00 Lunch break

14:00 – 18:00 Session 3: Sectoral perspectives and objective-based approaches to EGS

This session took specific environmental challenges affecting WTO Members and particularly developing countries such as clean energy generation, climate change adaptation, plastic pollution and biodiversity conservation. Participants reviewed goods, services and technologies necessary to address them and explored the role of trade and trade policies in facilitating their diffusion and uptake at different stages of relevant value chains.

14:00 – 16:00 Session 3a: Fostering access and scaling up of clean and renewable energy

Discussion starter (10 min):

  • Francesco Pasimeni, Associate Programme Officer, International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA): Trade in renewable energy goods, services and technologies: benefits, key drivers and obstacles 

Discussants (5 min. each)

  • Joachim Monkelbaan, Climate Trade Lead World Economic Forum (WEF)
  • Veena Jha, CEO, Ikdhvaj Advisers LLP India
  • Melaku Desta, Incoming Coordinator, Africa Trade Policy Centre, UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA)

Open discussion among delegations

16:00 – 16:15 Coffee/tea

16:15 – 18:00 Session 3b: Climate adaptation and economic resilience in the face of natural disasters

Discussion starter (10 min):

  • Anne Hammil, Senior Director, Resilience, International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD): The role of trade in climate adaptation technologies, goods and services: key drivers and obstacles

Discussants (5 min. each)

  • Chelceé Brathwaite, Researcher, Shridath Ramphal Centre for International Trade Law, Policy and Services, Barbados
  • Collin Zhuawu, Economic Advisor, Multilateral Trade, Commonwealth Secretariat
  • Rajiv Garg, Regional Manager for Africa and Central Asia, UN Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN), UNFCCC Technology Mechanism

Open discussion among delegations

DAY 2: 24 June

9:00 – 12:00 Session 3: Sectoral perspectives and objective-based approaches to EGS (cont.)

9:00 – 10:30 Session 3c: Trade in goods, services, technologies for reducing plastic pollution across the life cycle

Discussion starter (10 min):

  • Winnie Lau, Project Director, Preventing Ocean Plastics, Pew Charitable Trusts: Key technologies, goods and services to address plastic pollution

Discussants (7-8 min. each)

  • Mahesh Sugathan, Senior Advisor, Forum on Trade, Environment and the SDGs (TESS)
  • Shunta Yamaguchi, Policy Analyst, Environment and Economy Division, Environment Directorate, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

Open discussion among delegations

10:30- 10:45 Coffee/tea

10:45 – 12:00 Session 3d: Biodiversity-based products

Discussion starters (10 min each):

  • Maria Julia Oliva, Head of Policy, UNEP WCMC, and Marianne Kettunnen, Senior Policy Advisor and Head of Partnerships, Forum on Trade, Environment and the SDGs (TESS), Trade in biodiversity-based products: benefits, key drivers and obstacles
  • David Vivas Eugui, Legal Affairs Officer, Trade, Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Development Division, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Challenges and opportunities under different BioTrade related value chains

Open discussion among delegations

12:00 – 13:00 Session 4: Next steps

The concluding session provided an opportunity for an open discussion of possible options and analytical needs for advancing inclusive international cooperation on EGS in different venues in ways that effectively contribute to addressing critical environmental challenges and sustainable development, and that attract broad-based participation of countries at different stages of development.

Moderator: Carolyn Deere Birkbeck, Director, Forum on Trade, Environment and the SDGs (TESS)

Open discussion among delegations

 

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