International trade and trade policy have a significant impact on the way we live, from the costs of the goods and services we buy, to the performance of the various economic sectors that we either work in or rely on. While trade has the potential to advance sustainable, low-carbon development, it can also be a hindrance to that objective, depending on how trade policy is designed and implemented. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Paris Agreement climate commitments present fundamental challenges to trade policy; so too does the fraying of multilateralism.
IISD has been working on international trade for over two decades, analyzing the issue from multiple perspectives: scientific, economic, fiscal, legal, social, and environmental.
At the intergovernmental level, IISD has a long history of working on reforms to the World Trade Organization’s rules and members’ ability to engage in those processes. IISD has also built an extensive body of work on regional and plurilateral trade agreements, as well as the interlinkages between multilateral environmental agreements and the trading system.
At the sectoral level, we have explored options for new industrial policies functioning within a rules-based system; innovative financing for sustainable infrastructure; border-carbon adjustment measures; and whether trade can accelerate the transition to renewable energy sources, improve food security, and eliminate harmful fisheries subsidies and fossil fuel subsidies. Our work also unpacks the relationship between voluntary sustainability standards and trade, as well as the role of trade in contributing to the circular economy.
IISD's work in this area is backed by robust research and policy analysis, along with regular engagement with the varied stakeholder communities involved in and affected by trade and trade policy. A core part of this engagement involves our work to promote transparency and support informed trade conversations.
We feature in-depth commentary and analysis in Investment Treaty News, the Global Subsidies Initiative, the SDG Knowledge Hub, and the Trade and Sustainability Review. We hold webinars on issues at the heart of the trade and sustainability nexus, as part of our partnership with the University of Geneva's Faculty of Law.
Our work on trade issues is made possible through the generous support of our funders. These include:
- UK aid from the UK government, including its Trade and Investment Advocacy Fund (TAF2+)
- Pew Charitable Trusts
- German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ)
- Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)
- Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Swedish MFA)
- International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (NZ MFAT)
- Government of Finland
Agricultural Trade Policy
IISD’s work on trade in food and farm goods seeks to improve the extent to which trade policy supports sustainable development outcomes and expand the space for informed discussion among a wider set of policy actors.
IISD is focused on supporting the World Trade Organization negotiations to end harmful fisheries subsidies.
Trade, Environment and Climate
The trade and environment nexus is a dynamic intersection for IISD where trade policy solutions are explored as a way to help tackle environmental challenges, including climate change, deforestation, marine plastic waste, biodiversity loss, and overexploitation of marine resources.
Investment Facilitation, Ecommerce, and MSMEs
The WTO Joint Statement Initiatives (JSI) involve the subjects of investment facilitation, electronic commerce, and micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises, which are being developed by groups of WTO Members.
Trade and Sustainability Hub
Bringing together communities and stakeholders from around the world to discuss how trade policy can contribute to sustainable development.
Trade and Sustainability Review
A quarterly publication with a focus on the most active policy issues being discussed at the intersection of trade and sustainable development.
Global Subsidies Initiative
A program designed to put the spotlight on subsidies and the corrosive effects they can have on environmental quality, economic development, and governance.
Trade and Sustainability Hub 2024
Alongside the Thirteenth WTO Ministerial Conference (MC13) we will be running our Trade + Sustainability Hub, bringing together thought leaders from both within and outside governments for a series of conversations on the challenges of building cooperative trade policy that delivers for sustainable development.
The WTO E-commerce Joint Statement Initiative in the run-up to MC13
This webinar aims to help WTO delegates and capital-based officials to get up to speed on the latest status of the E-commerce JSI in the run-up to the WTO MC13
Understanding the WTO Investment Facilitation for Development Agreement (IFDA)
This webinar aims to help WTO delegates and capital-based delegates to get up to speed on the latest status of the Investment Facilitation for Development Agreement (IFDA) in the run-up to the WTO MC13.
COP 28 Side Event | Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform: Bridging discussions in climate and trade forums
This COP 28 side event will explore how fossil fuel subsidy reform is addressed across the climate and trade space, highlighting the actions being taken through UNFCCC processes and at the WTO.
Vice-President, Global Strategies and Managing Director, Europe
Senior Policy Advisor
Policy Advisor I
Policy Analyst, Trade and Agriculture
Policy Advisor, Fisheries Subsidies
Senior Policy Advisor
Senior Policy Advisor, Tracking Progress
Lead II, Sustainability Standards
Rashid S. Kaukab
Senior Specialist, Trade and Sustainable Development
Director, Trade and Sustainable Development
Senior Director, Tracking Progress
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Global Market Report: Tea prices and sustainability
This report explores recent market trends in the tea sector and explains why we need to get better at recognizing the social and environmental costs of tea production.
World Trade Organization Agriculture Negotiations at MC13
Facundo Calvo stresses the essential role of binding commitments, rules, and disciplines to effectively regulate trade in food and agriculture, particularly to enhance food security in least-developed countries.
Investment Law & Policy
How can we ensure developing economies attract international investment that promotes sustainable development?
Fossil fuel subsidies make little sense in a world shifting to low-carbon sources of energy to tackle climate change.
Standards and Value Chains
Voluntary sustainability standards contribute to biodiversity conservation, poverty reduction, and gender equality.
Governance and Multilateral Agreements
The frameworks that govern economies and our ecosystems touch every aspect of our lives—and have implications for sustainable, inclusive development.
Food and Agriculture
Agriculture is on the front lines of nearly all urgent global challenges, from hunger to climate change to rising inequality.
In a circular economy, products are designed, produced, and used to reduce waste and regenerate natural systems.