A ministerial declaration on environment and trade at the 2020 WTO Ministerial Conference

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WTO Reform: A Forward-looking Agenda on Environmental Sustainability

As faster progress towards a sustainable global economy becomes an increasingly central priority, a growing number of voters in both developed and developing countries recognise the economic importance and environmental urgency of more integrated economic and environmental policymaking. Carolyn Deere Birkbeck, Senior Research Associate at the Global Economic Governance Programme, states that the 2020 World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in Nur Sultan, Kazakhstan, provides a critical opportunity for WTO Member States to signal high-level political commitment to a multilateral trading system that better supports environmental sustainability.

This policy brief argues that, in Nur Sultan, WTO Member States should adopt a Ministerial Statement on Environment and Trade that bolsters existing work and updates their shared agenda to reflect contemporary environmental concerns. The Sustainable Development Goals and developing country priorities must be at the heart of this renewed environment and trade agenda. At the Ministerial Conference, like-minded WTO Members should also announce special joint initiatives on topics of shared interest, such as the climate crisis and plastic pollution.

The brief highlights that, at a time of uncertainty about the WTO’s role and relevance, political momentum on environmental sustainability could help build public confidence in the multilateral trading system’s ability to deliver on its core objective of sustainable development.