Publication: Policy brief

The WTO Dialogue on Plastics Pollution: Overview and State of Play

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By Carolyn Deere Birkbeck, Mahesh Sugathan, and Simon Ardila Eraso

Trade plays a central role in the global plastics economy. In 2021, the value of trade across the life cycle of plastics reached close to $1.2 trillion. Trade policies are directly relevant to the expanding plastics economy and plastic pollution. They can lock in or exacerbate unsustainable production and consumption patterns but also be harnessed to support efforts to end plastic pollution.

The member-led WTO Dialogue on Plastics Pollution—launched in November 2020 and co-sponsored by 75 members representing over 75% of global trade in plastics—aims to foster trade cooperation on plastic pollution within the framework of the WTO’s rules and mechanisms while complementing, supporting, and preventing duplication with efforts and processes in other international fora.

This policy brief is intended as an introduction for government officials and stakeholders keen to understand more about the origins and work of the Dialogue. It reviews the Dialogue’s evolution, purpose, and work and also presents an overview of key options for trade-related cooperation identified to date.

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