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Marine plastic pollution, in particular plastic waste, has received increasing attention at the international level and has been recognized as a transboundary problem requiring a global response in the form of an international plastics treaty. While the international environmental regime provides the current framework for these discussions, the role of the trade regime is often neglected. Therefore, this article argues that an international plastics treaty is the solution. The treaty, however, must be compatible with international trade law, which requires joint coordination and cooperation between legal regimes, and must include certain economic instruments in order to effectively address the problem of marine plastic pollution. In this vein, this article reviews different response measures and opportunities at the plastic-trade-nexus. These include national regulatory, economic, and voluntary instruments; problem-specific international agreements in the case of plastic waste trade; as well as the current negotiations on an international plastic treaty, providing a legally binding global response. The analysis shows that this global response also requires a holistic approach including a diverse set of stakeholders and policy-makers. Drawing from these findings, the article presents different steps to increase understanding of the role of trade in governing plastic pollution and the need for further international cooperation between existing regimes to overcome the fragmented legal landscape in order to address the plastic pollution problem in a comprehensive and systematic manner.

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