Shining a light on fossil fuel subsidies at the WTO: how NGOs can contribute to WTO notification and surveillance

Fossil fuel subsidies undermine efforts to mitigate climate change, and they damage the trading system. Multilateral discussion is hampered by inconsistent definitions and incomplete data, which could increase the risks of WTO disputes. Members do not notify such subsidies as much as they should under the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (ASCM), which limits the usefulness of the SCM Committee. The reports of the Trade Policy Review Mechanism on individual countries and on the trading system draw on a wider range of sources, creating an opportunity for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to provide the missing data from publicly available sources. We suggest a new template that could be used for such third-party notifications. The objective is to shine a light on all fossil fuel subsidies that cause market distortions, especially trade distortions. The result should be better, more comparable data for the Secretariat, governments, and researchers, providing the basis for better-informed discussion of the incidence of fossil fuel subsidies and rationale for their use.

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