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Global chemicals industry proposes recommendations to restore WTO leadership and strengthen rules-based, multilateral trading system

Sep 13, 2021

The International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA), the global voice of the chemicals industry, has released its consensus paper outlining a progressive set of recommendations for modernizing the World Trade Organization (WTO). The paper is a seminal achievement for the ICCA, bringing together a common agenda from geographically diverse, developed and developing economy members, and representing trading partners both large and small. Through this paper, ICCA is defining a path forward for reforming the WTO and restoring functionality to the rules-based trade system as well as advancing substantive multilateral negotiations.

“ICCA’s 164 members account for more than 98 percent of all global chemicals trade, contributing nearly $2 trillion to the global economy,” said Lisa Schroeter, global director of trade and investment policy at Dow, and chair of ICCA’s Trade Policy Network. “No one has seen an entire global industry coalesce around clear actions for the WTO membership quite like this before. We’re proud of the work we’ve done and we look forward to discussing our recommendations at the WTO Public Forum later this month.”

In developing the paper, ICCA sought input from across the full spectrum of economies, including Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia. The result, ICCA believes, is a series of recommendations that are worker-centric, focused on protecting human health and the environment, and designed to support a more sustainable economy.

“Around the globe, manufacturers are still reeling from one of the most volatile trading environments in recent memory,” said Ed Brzytwa, director of international trade at the American Chemistry Council (ACC). “ICCA analyzed the myriad challenges our members have faced firsthand over the past five years, and put that experience to work developing a comprehensive, detailed, and actionable set of recommendations for WTO reform. Our joint paper is a guide for leveraging trade and chemistry to reinvigorate global economic growth and to address pressing challenges like climate change. We look forward to partnering with the WTO to help reaffirm its position as the cornerstone of the multilateral, rules-based trading system and help leverage trade to create a safer, healthier, and more sustainable world.”

To support the launch of the new paper, ICCA partnered with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) for a virtual panel discussion featuring delegates from ICCA and other trade experts that endorse the ICCA’s recommendations.

“Chemistry drives economic growth, which is a key element of sustainable development,” said Alejandra Acosta, former regulatory official with the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development of Argentina. “But in my experience, the lack of environmental policy or the existence of conflicting regulations between countries that are trade partners, can exacerbate environmental threats and make it difficult for safer and innovative products of chemistry to reach the countries that need them the most. ICCA has identified regulatory cooperation on chemicals as one way the WTO can promote achieving high levels of protection for human health and the environment through high-quality science and risk-based regulatory instruments while also reducing trade barriers. It’s a win-win”.

“In Africa, a rules-based, multilateral trading system remains critical for smaller countries that do not have the strength of massive commercial power behind them,” said Catherine Grant Makokera, director of Tutwa Consulting Group and trade consultant to the South African Chemical and Allied Industries’ Association (CAIA). “African countries have strong representation in the WTO, which is an attractive club for the remaining accession candidates to join. For example, by fully implementing the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, trade leaders can begin to help address the high transport costs and connectivity challenges of the continent.”

“Ensuring the uninterrupted supply of chemicals to the world is a key imperative for global and regional leaders, as chemicals serve as key building blocks to scores of products and materials we use every day, and cater to many end-user industries,” said Dr. Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun, secretary general of the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA), based in Dubai. “Earlier this year, GPCA joined peer associations to develop a position paper which highlights the importance of a modernized and fully functioning WTO. I am pleased to see ICCA’s recommendations come at just the right time as global free trade faces a growing threat in countries across the world, and trade protectionism is on the rise.”

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