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At MC13, a coalition of World Trade Organisation (WTO) members, under the leadership of ministers from Ecuador, Barbados, Fiji, Morocco, Australia, and China, has taken a step towards curbing the issue of plastics pollution. 

The collective action, announced by a series of ministers, highlights the critical role of trade policy in mitigating the environmental impact of harmful plastics, single-use plastics, and plastic packaging while promoting eco-friendly alternatives like bamboo and algae biomass.

The initiative is reflected through a ministerial statement that not only proposes a series of actions but is also accompanied by a factual compilation of measures already being adopted by WTO members. 

These measures range from outright bans on single-use plastics to the adoption of eco-design and labelling requirements, alongside financial incentives and tax concessions to foster the use of sustainable and non-plastic substitutes.

The announcement was made by an esteemed group of ministers at MC13, including the Hon. Sonsoles Garcia from Ecuador, the Hon. Kerrie Symmonds from Barbados, the Hon. Manoa Kamikamica from Fiji, the Hon. Ryad Mezzour from Morocco, the Hon. Tim Ayres from Australia, and the Hon. Fei Li from China.

Minister Garcia highlighted the significance of the ministerial statement, saying, “This commitment is timely as our environmental minister counterparts convene in Nairobi for the 6th United Nations Environmental Assembly and we look forward to negotiations in Canada towards an international legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution, aiming for a conclusion by the end of 2024.”

Minister Symmonds highlighted the critical nature of the single-use plastics issue, stating, “According to UNCTAD, the value of global exports in single-use plastics has doubled since 2005. And today, the value of global exports in the plastics industry is now around USD 1 trillion per year. Trade in plastics has become a global problem and trade policy must be part of a global solution.”

Emphasising a comprehensive approach to tackling plastics pollution, Minister Kamikamica remarked, “We believe that addressing the plastics pollution requires a holistic solution that takes into consideration the whole lifecycle of plastics. On our part, Fiji is actively involved in all global forums advocating the need to address the plastics problem and the need to start eco-friendly plastic substitutes that are not harmful to our environment.”

Minister Mezzour shared the measures taken in Morocco to combat the environmental impact of single-use plastics, stating, “We’re happy that 78 members, representing 85% of world trade, have joined the coalition. Single-use plastics pollution is a real issue for the planet. Let’s work hard to tackle this plastic pollution.”

Assistant Minister Ayres discussed the collaborative nature of the initiative and the synergy between trade and environmental efforts, noting, “No one country can tackle the plastics challenge alone. I can see what is emerging as a trend that the WTO is making sure that our trade architecture supports our global environmental imperatives.”

Vice Minister Li emphasised the critical role of trade in addressing plastics pollution, adding, “This Ministerial Statement will reinvigorate actions to address plastics pollution and advance WTO reform. Our dialogue should continue to follow the principles of inclusiveness, transparency, balance and pragmatism, strengthen coordination with other international processes, and strike a balance between the environment, development and trade.”

This collective action taken at MC13 signifies a major step forward in aligning trade policies with environmental sustainability, showcasing a unified global effort to tackle the pressing issue of plastics pollution.