Global Governance Centre
15 October 2019

Tackling Plastic Pollution: What Role for the WTO?

On October 9, the Global Governance Centre co-hosted with the Centre for Trade and Economic Integration a Roundtable Discussion on ‘Tackling Plastic Pollution: What Role for the WTO?'

The goal of the event was to explore the trade dimensions of the plastic pollution's problem and to explore the role that trade policy - and the WTO specifically - could play in supporting the necessary transformation of the global plastics economy toward greater sustainability. This timely topic attracted the participation of over 90 representatives of governments, research institutes and stakeholder groups. 

After an introduction by GGC Research Fellow, Dr. Carolyn Deere Birkbeck, we had the opportunity to hear opening remarks from a leading thinker on China’s role in the global economy, Dr. Wang Huiyao, who is the Founder and President of the Centre on China and Globalisation, underscore the potential for Chinese environmental leadership in supporting discussion on plastics and trade. He was followed by a roundtable discussion among Permanent Representatives to the WTO from China, Ghana, Norway, Sri Lanka, Switzerland and the Pacific Islands Forum, as well as senior officials from the EU and New Zealand delegations to the WTO. 

Together, the presentations reinforced the interest in the trade dimensions of tackling plastic pollution from a diversity of WTO member states. There was broad recognition that the globalized nature of plastics production and distribution — together with the trans-boundary nature of plastics pollution — means that there are limits to what national governments can accomplish on their own.

The discussion yielded a range of suggestions on specific ways in which the WTO and its Member Starts could cooperate internationally to ensure a stable, transparent and coherent policy framework for encouraging more sustainable plastics production, consumption and trade.

This event was the first activity of the Global Governance Centre’s new research project on "Governing Plastic: the Global Political Economy and Regulation of Plastic Production and Pollution” funded by the Swiss Network of International Studies (SNIS).

Interview with Dr Wang Huiyao, Founder and President of the Centre for China and Globalization, who discusses global concerns about trade and plastic pollution.