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Trade and the environment

Trade and the environment

WTO context

The 1994 Marrakesh Agreement, establishing the WTO, refers to the importance of optimally using the world's resources in accordance with the objective of sustainable development and seeking to protect and preserve the environment. The WTO followed the lead of the 1992 Rio Conference on Sustainable development which endorsed the idea of making trade and environment policy and practice as "mutually supportive" as possible. Consistent with this, the role of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in relation to trade and environment is to ensure that environmental policies do not act as illegitimate cover for protectionist policies, and that trade rules do not stand in the way of legitimate domestic environmental protection.

Consideration of trade and environment issues within the WTO centres on the Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE). The Committee's mandate is broad, and provides opportunities for WTO members to raise a wide range of trade and environment issues. Australia actively supports the work of the CTE as the key multilateral body focused on trade and environment at the WTO.

As part of progressing the trade and environment agenda in the WTO, the Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussions (TESSD) were established in 2020 by 50 WTO Member, including Australia, and membership continues to grow. The creation of TESSD intensified trade and environment discussions at the WTO and TESSD now consists of four working groups on trade-related climate measures, environmental goods and services, circular economy, and subsidies.

The WTO is engaged on the environmental issue of plastics pollution and plastics trade through the Dialogue on Plastics Pollution (DPP). Australia, along with Barbados, China, Ecuador, Fiji and Morocco, is a co-coordinator of the DPP. The DPP was launched in 2020 to explore how the WTO could contribute to efforts to reduce plastics pollution and promote the transition to more environmentally sustainable trade in plastic. The DPP is also committed to close cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme and the intergovernmental negotiating committee that is negotiating an internationally binding instrument to end plastic pollution.

WTO | Trade and environmental sustainability

WTO | Plastics pollution and environmentally sustainable plastics trade

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