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Trade policies for a circular economy: What can we learn from WTO experience?

Karsten Steinfatt

No ERSD-2020-10, WTO Staff Working Papers from World Trade Organization (WTO), Economic Research and Statistics Division

Abstract: From its initial focus on minimizing waste generation, the circular economy has evolved into a broad-based approach to make resource use more sustainable. A big part of the appeal of a circular economy is the opportunities it creates not only for resource savings and better human health and environmental outcomes, but also for trade and economic diversification. As interest in circular economy approaches grows, it becomes increasingly important to ensure that trade policies are designed and implemented with the goals of a circular economy in mind. Doing so would bolster the role of trade in scaling up circular economy solutions worldwide. This paper reviews work at the WTO related to the circular economy. It shows how WTO members have addressed issues related to the circular economy through policy dialogue, peer review, negotiations and more recently, Aid for Trade. Experience in these four areas provides valuable insights into how WTO members can expand the positive contribution of trade to a circular economy, not least by: (i) improving their collective understanding of how trade interacts with the circular economy; (ii) building trust and confidence to engage in mutually beneficial activities related to circular economy; (iii) opening and facilitating trade in key areas of the circular economy; and (iv) supporting efforts in developing countries to seize the potential environmental, economic and social benefits of a circular economy through enhanced trade.

Keywords: international trade; circular economy; resource efficiency; sustainable development; waste; WTO; transparency; policy coordination; Aid for Trade (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: F13 F18 F42 F64 Q56 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-env and nep-int
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