Director-General, of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has said that trade cooperation at the organisation must be harnessed sustainably to protect the environment and ensure inclusiveness and prosperity for the world’s people. In a statement to mark World Environment Day on June 5, the WTO Chief said that on-going discussions for trade and environment outcomes at the upcoming 12th Ministerial Conference are highly encouraging. She stated: “The well-being of people is dependent upon the well-being of our planet, and trade can play an important role here. By connecting people and markets, trade helps lower costs and disseminate new environmental technologies. Trade can make resource use more efficient, reducing the strain on our ecosystems. New trade rules can help our economies become greener, cleaner, more prosperous, and more inclusive.
“I am extremely encouraged to see the increasing levels of engagement by WTO members towards outcomes on environmental sustainability and trade at our Ministerial Conference later this year.” Noting that the Ministerial Conference (MC12) would take place from November 30 to December 3, 2021 in Geneva, Switzerland, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala stated: “A key WTO priority is therefore to conclude an agreement this year to protect our oceans by ending harmful fisheries subsidies.
“WTO members are also discussing new initiatives to improve trade’s contribution to environmental sustainability, including the liberalization of trade in environmental goods and services, fossil fuel subsidy reform, the transition to a circular economy, plastics pollution and sustainable supply chains,” she said, noting the importance as well to collaborate on this year’s UN Climate Change COP26.” Continuing, she said: “International cooperation is essential to achieving our collective commitments to protect the environment, mitigate climate change and prevent biodiversity loss and deforestation. As economies recover from COVID-19, we have an opportunity to build back better and greener and bluer. Nature is the source of our health and prosperity, and we must all act together to restore, protect and strengthen our ecosystems.”