Launch of New Report

The report, co-authored by Carolyn Deere Birkbeck and Mahesh Sugathan, aims to facilitate an informed discussion of policy options among a diversity of relevant stakeholders,  including environmental NGOs, the business sectors, government, international organizations and the research community working on the challenges of plastic pollution. The report provides:

  • strategic analysis of linkages between trade and sustainability challenges in the plastics sector, including how and to what extent trade policies could form part of the solution to plastic pollution;
  • a mapping of a range of trade policy options and interventions that could help reduce plastic pollution, while also noting how and where trade policies can erect barriers to or threaten national plastic pollution reduction efforts;
  • a review of potential pathways for aligning trade and trade policy with plastic pollution goals, including through international environmental processes and agreements, international trade diplomacy – at the WTO and UNCTAD as well as at the regional and bilateral level – and co-operation through international economic organizations; and
  • proposes policy priorities and identifies research needs.

The report will be available for download from 22 June.


The event started with a presentation of the report, followed by a roundtable exchange among invited panelists and an open discussion.

Welcome and Opening Remarks

  • Damaris Carnal, Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the WTO

Report Presentation

  • Carolyn Deere Birkbeck, Director, TESS
  • Mahesh Sugathan, Senior Policy Adviser, TESS

Roundtable Discussion

  • David Vivas-Eugui, Legal Office, Division on International Trade and Commodities, UNCTAD (moderator)
  • Yuvan Beejadhur, Senior Advisor to the Director-General, WTO
  • María Daniela García, Deputy Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of Ecuador to the WTO and other Economic International Organizations in Geneva
  • Eirik Lindebjerg, Global Plastics Policy Manager, WWF
  • Diana Barrowclough, Senior Economist, UNCTAD
  • Leticia Carvalho, Head of Marine and Freshwater, Ecosystem Division, UNEP
  • Alice Tipping, Lead, Sustainable Trade and Fisheries Subsidies, International Institute for Sustainable Development
  • Helionor de Anzizu, Staff Attorney, Centre for International Environmental Law
  • Kimberley Botwright, Trade and Investment Lead, World Economic Forum (WEF)

Open Discussion

  • How and where could international cooperation on trade policies best contribute to efforts to reduce plastics pollution?
  • In what ways do trade policies present challenges or stand in the way of efforts to reduce plastic pollution?
  • How could stronger cooperation on trade policies support, and be reflected in, the proposed global plastic treaty?
  • What are the opportunities and challenges related to existing efforts to use trade policies to help reduce plastic pollution, such as the Basel Convention’s ‘plastic waste’ amendments?
  • What are the trade opportunities for plastic substitutes and enhanced waste management capacities in developing countries?
  • What concretely could governments do in the multilateral trading system to support and complement international efforts to tackle plastic pollution?


The video of the event is available on the GTP youtube channel and on this page.

Biographies of the Report’s Authors

Carolyn Deere Birkbeck is the Director of the Forum on Trade, Environment and the SDGs, a partnership of UNEP and the Graduate Institute, housed at the Geneva Trade Platform.  She is also a Senior Researcher at the Global Governance Centre, where she leads a research project on transforming the global plastics economy, supported by the Swiss Network of International Studies.

Mahesh Sugathan is a Senior Policy Adviser at the Forum on Trade, Environment and the SDGs, and an independent trade and sustainability expert. He has been a consultant for a range of international organizations including the World Bank, the International Trade Centre (ITC), UNEP, UNCTAD, and the ACP Secretariat.