WTO seeks regulatory alternatives to promote international trade in alternatives to plastics
13 marzo 2023


Single-use plastics. The World Trade Organization (WTO) Committee on Trade Barriers (TBT) and the Dialogue on Plastic Pollution met between March 7 and 13. Members exchanged best practices on the regulation of plastics and discussed standards and technical regulations in some countries that could help develop a globally applicable policy to benefit the use of alternatives to plastic. The suggestions of the Dialogue participants were compiled in the following document. It is expected that these will be taken into account for the next WTO Ministerial Conference, to be held in February 2024 in Abu Dhabi.

At the TBT meeting, WTO representatives presented the challenges facing world trade in the spread of the use of plastic substitutes. Among them, the lack of consistency in national regulations and the existing differences in recycling processes stand out. They also highlighted the lack of development of international standards focused on alternatives to plastic. Finally, they pointed out that the prices of plastic substitutes are more expensive than plastic itself, partly due to high tariffs in certain markets and non-tariff barriers related to product certification.

Later in the Dialogue on Plastic Pollution, participants also emphasized the Dialogue’s aim to support other important international initiatives in this area, in particular the multilateral negotiation process underway in the UN Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee, where participants are seeking to achieve a legally binding instrument by the end of 2024 to end plastic pollution.

Next steps

Participants noted that with less than a year to go before the 13th WTO Ministerial Conference, to be held in February 2024 in Abu Dhabi, it is critical to generate concrete ideas and formulate a set of policy recommendations to reduce plastic pollution and encourage the adoption of substitute reuse models.