CITES addresses WTO Committee on Trade and Environment

The Committee on Trade and Environment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) was held on 5 June 2013 in Geneva. The CITES Secretariat was invited to speak on the issue of trade in wildlife to highlight its role in the debate on the relationship between trade and environment.

"CITES and the WTO have harmoniously coexitisted for the past 40 years and we greatly appreciate the oportunity to participate in the deliberations of its Committee on Trade and Environment", said Mr John E. Scanlon, CITES Secretary-General

In its intervention the CITES Secretariat addressed the following:

The 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES, held in Bangkok during March 2013, has been described as the most successful in its 40-year history.

Among other things, based on sound scientific analysis, Parties decided to include in CITES Appendix II a number of commercially valuable timber and marine species – which will allow the Convention to contribute in a complementary way to the sustainable forest and fishery management of those listed species.

Approximately 96% of the 35,000+ species covered by the Convention are included in Appendix II, which means that they can be commercially traded provided that governmental authorities certify that such trade is legal, sustainable and traceable.

At CoP16, Parties also adopted Resolutions or revised Resolutions which provide comprehensive policy guidance on:

  • the uniform interpretation and implementation of the sustainability requirement that underpins CITES trade (i.e. that the proposed export of a wild animal or plant species will not be detrimental to its survival);
  • trade in marine species taken from the high seas;
  • the relationship between CITES and people’s livelihoods; and
  • mechanisms and tools for facilitating legal trade and detecting and addressing illegal trade in wild animals and plants.

Governments recognized in paragraph 203 of the Rio+20 outcome document that CITES is an international agreement that stands at the intersection between trade, environment and development. It is therefore no surprise that virtually all of the decisions taken at CoP16 have implications for international trade.

The final texts of all new and revised Resolutions and Decisions adopted will be posted on the CITES website in the coming days.

The substantial results of CoP16 reflect an increased interest by the 178 States-Parties to make use of a well-tested and still relevant legally-binding, global instrument which contributes to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity as well as human well-being.

We thank WTO for the opportunity to observe the Open Hearing of the WTO dispute panel on EC - Seal Products in April this year – we attended with interest. The CITES Secretary-General gave a keynote address at the World Customs Organization conference Effective Solutions for Coordinated Border Management in Dubai last month.

CITES is indeed at the intersection between trade, environment and development for biodiversity products and we look forward to working with the WTO Committee on Trade and Environment in the future.