September 27 – 30, 2022
The 2022 edition of the WTO Public Forum took place in Geneva from the 27th to 30th of September, attracting more than 3200 participants. The theme for this year’s event was “Towards a sustainable and inclusive recovery: ambition to action” , with a focus on how trade can contribute to post-pandemic economic recovery.
Tulip Consulting's Founding Director, Colette van der Ven had various opportunities to showcase TULIP's work on trade and sustainable development. She presented research and proposed concrete actions to advance inclusive sustainable development, with a focus on trade in environmental services, a circular textiles transition, and a circular economy for transitioning economies.
In the first panel titled “The Future of Services Trade is Sustainable” Colette joined UK Ambassador Rebecca Fisher-Lamb, Former Chief Negotiator for Somalia's WTO accession Maryan Hassan, and Jodie Keane from the Overseas Development Institute in a session moderated and organized by George Riddell, Director of Trade Strategy at Ernst & Young. The session explored questions such as "will all services provided have an environmental component in the future" "how to ensure that the knowledge and delivery of these services are available to companies looking to build capacity in developing countries?" and "how best to harness the opportunities and challenges of digital technology to the provision of services, focusing on WTO initiatives including TESSD, e-commerce and domestic regulation?"
Picture (left to right): Ambassador Rebecca Fisher-Lamb, Colette van der Ven, Maryan Hassan, George Riddell
Panelist agreed that ensuring a greater take-up of trade in environmental services can support the development of a healthier services ecosystem. The WTO has an opportunity to facilitate this trade discussions and play a role in supporting developing countries as they scale up the services sector in a sustainable manner. Jodie Keane shared her work related to Aid-for-Trade and climate change at the Overseas Development Institute, highlighting the need to address emerging questions regarding its future relevance for graduating Least Developed Countries (LDCs), environment sector development, more generally.
As the former Somalian Chief WTO Accession Negotiator, Maryan Hassan spoke about the challenge for acceding and vulnerable countries to achieve their sustainability objectives and the opportunities going forward. Colette van der Ven shared her experience in providing projects related to embedding sustainability in government policymaking. She highlighted the need for trade practitioners and environmental specialists to break down the silos between the two fields and find room for productive dialogue and collaboration.
The second panel in which TULIP participated focused on, “Circular Opportunities in the global textiles value chain: leveraging trade rules to support an inclusive transition”. This panel was was organized by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, the Finish Innovation Fund Sitra, and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). The panel consisted of Malena Sell-Myllyoja representing Sitra, Olivia Schulze-Lecerf the Head of Global Trade & Customs from the H&M Group and the Ambassador of Viet Nam to the WTO LE Thi Tuyet Mai, was moderated by Anne Vasara, the Ambassador for Circular Economy and Energy, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. Colette van der Ven was given the opportunity to present findings of a recently published TULIP report, commissioned by SITRA, “Circular Innovation and Ecodesign in the Textiles Sector: Towards a Sustainable and Inclusive Transition.”
Picture (left to right): Anne Vasara, Colette van der Ven, Malena Sell
The study analyzes the implications of the EU's Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation on developing countries' textile and apparel exports to the EU, with a focus on Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. Colette van der Ven focused on the study's main findings, including the importance of adopting regulatory frameworks to incentivize a circular transition, including Extended Producer Responsibility; embedding circular principles into industrial and development policies; enhancing coherence between GSP frameworks and sustainable product standards; and ensuring access to technologies critical to advance a transition towards circular textiles. Her power point presentation can be downloaded below.
All panelist emphasized the importance of involving both the public and private sector in a transition to circular economic models, as well as the harmonization of trade in secondary goods through reviewing HS codes and agreeing on product definitions. The session concluded with a productive Q&A session, where audience members underlined the importance of research studies such as the one presented and the need to turn from ‘ambition into urgent action.’
Colette van der Ven also participated in the session “Circular Economy and trade: opportunities and challenges for transition economies”, organized by UNECE. The panelists included Ulugbek Lapasov, the Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the WTO, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Uzbekistan to the United Nations Office and other International Organizations; Tatiana Molcean Ambassador and Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Moldova to the United Nations Office and other international organizations; Xiangchen Zhang Deputy Director-General (DDG) at the WTO. The moderator was Elisabeth Tuerk Director, Economic Cooperation and Trade Division, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).
Colette van der Ven presented initial findings of a new report on trade and an inclusive circular transition financed by the German Government. This research aims to deepen the understanding of how the WTO can work towards an inclusive circular economy transition, as well as the role that can be played by Regional Trade Agreements. In the discussion, panelists highlighted the importance of ensuring circular economy discussions are inclusive of developing countries, which will require work both from developing countries and WTO. DDG Zhang reflected on discussions that are happening within WTO initiatives, such as WTO Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussions (TESSD), which has established a separate working group on the circular economy.
Picture (left to right): Ambassador Ulugbek Lapasov, DDG Zhang, Elisabeth Tuerk, Ambassador Tatiana Molcean, Colette van der Ven
The Uzbek and Moldovan representatives shared some of the challenges of their respective countries in understanding and unpacking circular economy principles, especially for the private sector initiative and the SMEs. They both suggested the textile industry in their countries could work as ‘working laboratory’ and serve as a success story to others.
Colette van der Ven added that Aid for Trade could play an important role not only in building capacity, but also in developing non-binding guidelines that could help address technical issues related to misalignment of the trade and circular economy regimes. The advantage would not be limited to circular goods/services, but could also focus on integrating circular elements in other parts, such as procurement, investment facilitation, Technical Barriers to Trade, etc.
The session concluded by the panelist urging everyone to think about the circular economy in practical terms and move beyond the broader concept of "the circular economy". The group agreed it is crucial to continue with the funding and dissemination of creative research that produces clear roadmaps for countries, sectors, and industries that aim to embrace circular economic models.
Looking back at another edition of the Public Forum, identifying how the WTO can best support an inclusive, sustainable transition will be critical. Tulip Consulting continues to work tirelessly to produce creative research and advance strategies that promote sustainable development for all.
With thanks to Diana Carballo for reporting.