GTW2020 event examined the nexus between trade, circular economy and development in the post-pandemic reality.
Trade is an important part of the implementing framework in advancing transition to Circular Economy. As a consequence of the shock caused by the pandemic, several governments, inter-governmental organizations and other stakeholder have called for rebuilding the economy in a sustainable manner that advances transition to Circular Economy and contributes to the sustainable development.
In this vein, the Permanent Missions of Finland and the Netherlands, Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), International Trade Centre (ITC), the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and World Economic Forum (WEF) hosted a joint event at the first-ever Geneva Trade Week on September 30th 2020.
Professor, Director for Climate Change and Green Growth at the African Development Bank (AfDB), Mr. Anthony Nyong saw Circular Economy as a concrete economic and development opportunity for developing and developed countries alike, highlighting the need to align post-COVID19 recovery, sustainability and development with the help of trade.
The AfDB recognizes the strategic opportunities that the circular economy can provide in promoting inclusive green growth and accelerating the transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy by creating jobs and bolstering green innovations and sustainable development in Africa. Through a recent joint project Finland, the African Development Bank and the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra aim to support the mainstreaming of circular economy solutions in African countries. The objective of the impact level is to help convert production and consumption on the continent into a circular economy. Concrete suggestions were brought forward in the agricultural, textile and tourism sector. The AfDB Bank is working on establishing the Africa Circular Economy Facility (ACEF), a multi-donor trust fund to support the adoption and diffusion of circular practices in Regional Member Countries.
Ms. Kimberley Botwright, Community Lead at the World Economic Forum, shared inspirational cases of international companies working on a transition to Circular Economy, business-led opportunities for developing countries and the role of trade policy in support or hindering Circular Economy business strategies. Programme Manager of the ITC, Ms. Annegret Brauss offered a complementary view focusing on the SMEs, the ways to support the transition to Circular Economy and enhance competitiveness. As the genuine interest is there, it is important to pay attention to the role of finance, incentives and the impact of customer demand.
The event also served as a launch of an important study as Ms. Colette van der Ven international trade lawyer and Founder of TULIP Consulting, presented her new report on the nexus between the Circular Economy, trade and development, commissioned by the Permanent Mission of the Netherlands in Geneva. Ms. van der Ven focused especially on the challenges and opportunities the Circular Economy provides for developing countries and the concrete ways in which trade agreements can be used to address the spillover effects. In order to advance discussions, Ms. van der Ven stressed the importance of inclusive and forward-looking discussion, and called for better alignment between trade agreements and environmental treaties.
At the end of the event, the speakers gave advice to trade negotiators regarding ways to support green recovery that takes into account the needs of developing countries’. Professor Nyong highlighted the importance of regional economic cooperation and called for support for the African free trade area.
Ms. van der Ven stressed the importance of having a holistic strategy and the role of institutions in advancing green recovery. Considering the next steps and the ways trade could better support green recovery, Ms. Brauss emphasized the need to consider the needs of the SMEs and to connect with companies as they are affected by the trade policies.
Ms. Botwright noted that the global trade is only 8,6 % circular and that the trend has been in decline during the past couple of years. According to her, the trade policy community needs to go further in dialogue with companies and NGOs looking to accelerate the circular economy. This is especially important as there are still many outstanding questions on the type of interventions that would support companies’ circular economy goals. All speakers saw Circular Economy – especially the nexus between trade, sustainability and green recovery – as a driver of jobs in advanced and emerging economies alike.
During a lively discussion with the audience, Leading Specialist Ms. Malena Sell (the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra) presented Sitra’s new Guidebook that aims to support countries in creating their own national roadmaps for Circular Economy transition. The moderator of the event, the IEEP’s Project Manager Marianne Kettunen concluded by highlighting the importance of cooperation and dialogue, the role of the Geneva-based trade-related organizations and the need to bring the discussions to the WTO as well.
The recording of the discussion can be found here.