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Climate and Trade: Highlights after the WTO's 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) in Abu Dhabi.

Today is Wednesday, March 6 2024.

About a week ago we posted about India's intention to take up the European Union's (EU) Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) to the World Trade Organization (WTO), during its 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) that took place from 26 February to 2 March 2024 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Related to the impact of climate change, and other WTO matters, here are parts of the statements of some selected countries, including three insular ones, to give an idea of their concerns and positions.

🇮🇳 India

"India firmly believes that any measures taken to combat climate change, including unilateral ones, should not constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination or a disguised restriction on international trade. Further, WTO should not negotiate rules on non-trade related subjects like climate change, gender, labor etc. rather they should be addressed in respective intergovernmental organizations."

🇧🇷 Brazil

"However, we fell short of addressing WTO's most critical challenges: the need for modernizing reforms; the paralysis of the Dispute Settlement Body; and a long-standing failure to deliver results on the priority issues of developing countries. Brazil, as a developing country itself, seeks a strengthened and modernized WTO that fully integrates into its agenda the perspective of sustainable development in its three dimensions: environmental, economic and social. In order to overcome the challenges of our time, we need a just and inclusive technological and economic transformation that fully incorporates developing countries. To achieve this goal, it is fundamental to count on a renewed multilateral trading system. In this regard, WTO needs to be ready to deal with a rapidly changing global landscape, while being able to address issues of broad economic and social impact that have been systematically left behind, such as agriculture."

🇺🇸 United States

"We are a diverse group of economies, and we are facing new challenges – like a worsening climate crisis, rapid technological change, and widening inequality. But we also have the chance to seize new opportunities, together. To use trade as a force for good. To ensure that the benefits of trade reach more people. To adapt, modernize, and reform the WTO for the better. This week's gathering is the first real ministerial dedicated to discussing what needs to be done to realize this vision. ... Trade cannot solve all of our problems, but the WTO has an important role to play in shaping our future."

🇨🇳 China

"The world we live in is confronted by slow economic recovery, sluggish trade growth, and intensifying global challenges such as food crises, climate change and development divides. ... "What solutions can the WTO offer?" ... We need to make sure that all Members and social groups get their share from global economic growth in a way that is proportionate to the resources and labor they put in. ... The WTO has lowered its 2023 global trade growth forecast to 0.8%, and the World Bank has estimated that global growth in 2024 could slow down for the third consecutive year to 2.4%. To reverse this trend, two keywords deserve our attention: digital and green."

"We are living at a time of high uncertainty. ... three-quarter of world trade still takes place on WTO terms ... Without those multilateral rules, we would have a vastly different world. ... The world has changed. And institutions like the WTO need to evolve too. But that doesn't mean it is obsolete. On the contrary. This is precisely why we need to advance much-needed WTO reform. ... we need to work together to fix the dispute settlement system ... trade rules need to catch up with the realities of today's world. One prime example is the need for updated rules on industrial subsidies, including in the context of climate and sustainability."

🇲🇺 Mauritius

"As a Small Island Developing State, Mauritius faces inherent constraints such as distance from main markets, connectivity gaps, and high freight costs. Climate emergency and recent challenges, including high inflation and an escalating energy crisis, further compound these difficulties. ... Mauritius is a Net-Food Importing Developing Country (NFIDC) isolated from its primary markets. We are heavily reliant on the trading system to achieve our food security."

"Solomon Islands is a coastal, geographically dispersed country, with further obstacles in physical connectivity to markets. Our systems are fragile and we are vulnerably exposed. It only takes a single natural disaster or a global crisis of any magnitude to provoke irreparable consequences for Solomon Islands and reverse years of sustainable development gains on poverty elimination and the progress of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)."

🇸🇨 Seychelles

"At present, risks and uncertainties pervade our global landscape; the world is grappling with a range of crises, from geopolitical tensions to rising debt distresses, all exacerbated by the devastating effects of climate change which Seychelles, as a small island developing state, is especially affected by. The Seychelles may be just a small group of islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean, but it is also part of that global village, and it feels the full impact of these crises, even more so than most."

If you are interested in reading what your country representative said at the WTO 13th Ministerial Conference, click at the image below for the full list with about 150 short statements.

Included in the package of outcome documents under the responsibility of Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussions (TESSD), there is this interesting compilation of country experiences and considerations regarding agricultural subsidies design, including related to the low-carbon economy. Experiences in the following regions are indicated: Australia, Brazil, Costa Rica, European Union, Israel, Japan, Paraguay, United Kingdom, Uruguay, plus Canada, China, Norway, Switzerland and United States about low-carbon economy actions.

WTO members are also working on fossil fuel subsidy reform to ramp up transition efforts. "Government support for fossil fuels almost doubled in 2022 ... to over USD 1.4 trillion ... Phasing out fossil fuel subsidies that do not address energy poverty nor support just transitions is an important contribution to climate action goals ... the WTO founding agreement identifies trade as a powerful enabling force for progress towards sustainable development."

Last but not least, we quote one paragraph of the main document of the MC13, the Abu Dhabi Ministerial Declaration adopted on 2 March 2024:

"In recalling the objectives in the Marrakesh Agreement and in recognising the role that the multilateral trading system can play in contributing towards the achievement of the UN 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals, in so far as they relate to the WTO mandate, we underscore the importance of trade and sustainable development in its three pillars – economic, social, and environmental."


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“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

“I am among those who think that science has great beauty”

Madame Marie Curie (1867 - 1934) Chemist & physicist. French, born Polish.

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