WTO’s Okonjo-Iweala urges progress on environmental goods and services pact

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WASHINGTON, Dec 13 – World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on Tuesday said the global trade body needed to revive work on an environmental goods and services pact that would lower or eliminate tariffs on certain products that helped countries build their resilience to and tackle climate change.

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Okonjo-Iweala, speaking at an event hosted by the International Monetary Fund, also warned that fragmentation of the global economy and decoupling of the West from Russia and China would be very costly and would set back efforts to address shared problems like climate change.

The head of the global trade body told Reuters after the event it was likely too ambitious to finalize an agreement during the coming ministerial meeting or MC13, but she was pushing to at least get started.

“What I would hope is that we actually start the discussion, and that may be the next MC, not this one,” she said, “getting them all coming around to a set of goods and services that is a restrained list, much restrained from what was there before.”

Okonjo-Iweala said she thought starting work on a new environmental goods and services agreement was “a doable thing” and could help advance efforts to combat climate change.

The pact would seek “to bind countries to respect a certain list of goods … to build resilience,” and try to decarbonize and get on the path to net-zero, she said.

She said WTO members worked on a similar agreement, but shelved the effort in 2016 amid disagreements over the list.

“We need to revive this. This is a net contribution that the WTO can make,” she said.

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