Buenos Aires, Domingo, 1 de Octubre
23 junio, 2015 0:00 Imprimir

La CITES y la OMC: promover la cooperación con miras a un desarrollo sostenible



Observaciones introductorias de Mr. Roberto Azevêdo, Director-General (OMC)

(de momento sólo en inglés)





Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased to be here with you — and to welcome my counterpart at CITES, Secretary-General John Scanlon, to the WTO.

It is very appropriate that we are holding this launch event on the margins of the CTE meeting. The Committee has played a key role in promoting a mutually supportive relationship between CITES and the WTO over the years.

The event is also well timed as we are in the lead up to several sustainable development milestones, including the Summit on the Post-2015 Development Agenda — and that will be at the UN in September – and the Climate Change Conference, in Paris, in December.

CITES and the WTO have been successfully cooperating on sustainable development for several decades, and I think that this experience can be of value to these other efforts.

That is why Secretary-General Scanlon and I thought it was timely to ask our respective teams to take a closer look at the CITES-WTO relationship and at how it has grown over the years.

With this in mind, I would like to take the opportunity to:

  • talk about the significance of the CITES-WTO relationship;
  • identify some of the elements that have brought our organizations closer together; and
  • sketch some practical ways to advance and deepen our relationship.



The WTO’s collaboration with CITES is best understood in the context of what the founders of the WTO saw so clearly 20 years ago – that the well-being of habitats, societies, and economies are very closely linked.

It was the awareness of those links that led our founders to enshrine the principle of sustainable development in our founding document, the Marrakesh Agreement.

It also shaped the WTO vision that global trade cooperation is vital to achieve economic, environmental and development goals.

But to realize this vision and to make lasting progress on sustainable development, we must ensure that policies in one area go hand-in-hand with policies in other areas.

When policy in one area serves positive outcomes in another, we get a win-win.

And the good news is that we have evidence that win-win outcomes are possible between trade, rural livelihoods, and the long-term survival of species.

So CITES and WTO have cooperated over the last decades to assist countries in identifying and harnessing win-win situations.

Wildlife can help to provide livelihood opportunities for local communities, including through legal and sustainable trade in these resources.

And this, in turn, can provide incentives for investments in nature conservation, law enforcement and preservation of wildlife.

We have seen numerous cases of these potential synergies.

For example, trade in certain ornamental fish from the Brazilian Amazon has provided incentives for proper floodplain management and disincentives against destructive land-use change.

Similarly, legal and sustainable trade has successfully replaced illegal trade in crocodile skins for the luxury fashion industry.

But, of course, any such trade must always be managed very carefully. That is why efforts by CITES and others to stem unsustainable and illegal trade in wildlife are so important.



The cooperation between CITES and the WTO has strengthened over the years.

The positive evolution of this relationship is all the more remarkable because it was not inevitable. In fact, there are those who have long predicted that our two systems would be in conflict.

But these predictions have not materialized. And I think that there are several elements that explain this.

Let me briefly mention four of them.

First, both CITES and the WTO embody the belief that multilateralism and the rule of law are indispensable in tackling challenges that reach beyond national borders. This is a fundamental shared principle.

The second element is our belief in the importance of transparency.

As early as 1976, several GATT contracting parties began to notify their trading partners about measures they had adopted under CITES.

Here at the WTO we attach great importance to notifications as tools to ensure certainty and predictability in trade relations.

But in this specific case, the early notification of CITES measures at the WTO served the additional purpose of bringing CITES into the regular, day-to-day work of the WTO.

This helped to demystify the new Convention in the eyes of the trade policy community, and to build trust on both sides.

The third element I would like to highlight is the capacity of the multilateral trading system to accommodate environmental considerations, including measures that aim to protect and conserve natural resources.

Our rules give members broad scope and flexibility to pursue legitimate environmental and other public policy goals. In no way does this affect our task to keep protectionism firmly in check.

And during the last two decades, several environment-related measures have been tested against those rules through our dispute settlement system.

Some of the measures in question sought to achieve policy goals directly related to wildlife, including sea turtles and dolphins.

And a landmark WTO dispute — “US — Shrimp” — even considered the importance of CITES specifically.

This case law has confirmed that members may be permitted to apply trade-restrictive environmental measures.

But they must also fulfil certain conditions to ensure that environmental measures are not used as disguised protectionism.

So the balance implicit in these rulings helps achieve efficient and effective environmental regulations, including for the protection of natural resources.

The fourth element that has helped CITES and the WTO to work coherently with each other is the WTO’s institutional framework, in particular the Committee on Trade and Environment — the CTE.

The CTE has provided a forum where CITES and the WTO can exchange experiences in an informal setting.

Past exchanges have focused not only on the institutional aspects of the WTO-MEA relationship, but also on the trade-related aspects of specific issues covered by CITES and other MEAs.

For example, I was pleased to learn about the active engagement of many delegations in recent CTE discussions on some of the trade aspects of illegal logging.

These discussions, which benefited greatly from input provided by CITES, illustrate well the role of the CTE in bringing the trade and environmental policy communities closer together.

I would encourage you to remain engaged in the vital work of the CTE.

And I think that, in due course, it will be important for CTE delegates to reflect on how they could take the work of the CTE to the next level, so that they can draw the full benefits of this forum.



Looking forward, I think we should seek to build on the successful partnership between CITES and the WTO.

The Doha Agenda put a focus on the relationship between the WTO and MEAs, and offers an opportunity to formalize existing WTO-MEA cooperation.

Progress in these negotiations would help to avoid potential conflicts between WTO and MEA rules, for example by strengthening national cooperation between government agencies which deal with trade and the environment.

WTO members have put a lot of work into trying to move this mandate forward.

As I said earlier, 2015 is a significant year for the environment and sustainable development, but it is also an important year for the WTO as we have our 10th Ministerial Conference coming up in Nairobi in December.

This is the first WTO ministerial conference to be held in Africa and I think it is important that we do all we can to deliver an outcome there which will support sustainable development.

While we are still working on these negotiations, there are additional avenues for co-operation open to us.

For example, I was particularly pleased to hear from our CITES colleagues that they view the Trade Facilitation Agreement which we concluded in 2013 as a useful tool that could support and complement their own efforts in this area.

Indeed, trade facilitation can be an important element of a coherent policy framework to foster the synergies between trade, wildlife conservation, and development.

And so this presents an additional reason to ensure the Agreement’s speedy ratification.




To conclude, I think there is no doubt that CITES and the WTO play an important role in supporting sustainable development.

Over the years, the two organizations have found pragmatic ways to collaborate in order to advance the wellbeing of economies, habitats and societies.

But sustainable development remains a work in progress. There are many untapped win-win possibilities between trade, the environment and development.

We must therefore continue to build on the collaboration between our two organizations.

Thank you for listening.


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