Cargo ships docked at a port


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. 

Within the wide range of topics that trade covers, 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; 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 renewable energy, improve food security, and eliminate harmful fisheries subsidies and fossil fuel subsidies.

IISD works with developing countries and others on these and other trade issues, along with analyzing the latest trends and thinking in this field through its flagship Investment Treaty NewsGlobal Subsidies Initiative, the SDG Knowledge Hub, and its forthcoming Trade and Sustainability Review. It also holds regular webinars on issues at the heart of the trade and sustainability nexus, as part of its partnership with the University of Geneva's Faculty of Law.