Christophe Bellmann and Mahesh Sugathan
Trade is increasingly seen as a tool to help foster the diffusion and uptake of technologies vital for climate change mitigation and adaptation, pollution reduction, and biodiversity conservation, and as a way to facilitate the transition to a more circular and resource-efficient economy. This recognition is prompting renewed interest in how governments can cooperate internationally to promote and facilitate trade in environmental goods and services (EGS), and to do so in ways that support sustainable development priorities of developing countries.
At the multilateral level, discussions on EGS are gaining fresh momentum, notably in the context of the Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussion (TESSD) and the Informal Dialogue on Plastics Pollution and Environmentally Sustainable Plastics Trade (IDP), launched in 2020 at the World Trade Organization (WTO). This comes after years without significant action on this topic at the WTO, during which time attention shifted to bilateral and regional EGS initiatives. A range of WTO members have highlighted the need to build on the experience of regional trade agreements, including as incubators of new approaches to EGS, and explore how this could inform multilateral discussions.
As a contribution to these discussions, this paper reviews approaches to incorporating EGS-related provisions in trade agreements, defining the scope and coverage of EGS, and designing substantive provisions on EGS. It also examines support measures for developing countries. Based on this analysis, it presents a set of options that WTO members could consider when exploring ways to facilitate and promote trade in EGS.