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
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 + 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.
South-South Trade and Voluntary Sustainability Standards: Challenges and opportunities
Webinar exploring new research on how sustainability standards can promote trade relationships that protect the environment and improve farmers’ livelihoods in developing countries.
WTO Agriculture Negotiations and Sustainable Development
These three webinars will offer WTO delegates and capital-based officials the chance to discuss WTO Agriculture Negotiations and Sustainable Development with a focus on domestic support, public stockholding for food security purposes (PSH), and export restrictions.
The Scramble for the Markets of the Future: Decarbonization, Trade and Geopolitics
This event is part of the WTO's Public Forum, focusing on climate-related trade restrictions and discussing the challenges of international cooperation in reaching climate goals.
Interim Co-President and Co-CEO | Vice-President, Global Strategies and Managing Director, Europe
Senior Policy Advisor
Policy Advisor I
Policy Analyst, Trade and Agriculture
Lead, Public Procurement and Sustainable Infrastructure Policy and Coordinator of the NBI Global Resource Centre
Policy Advisor, Fisheries Subsidies
Senior Policy Advisor
Senior Policy Advisor, Tracking Progress
Lead II, Sustainability Standards
Director, Trade and Sustainable Development
Senior Director, Tracking Progress
Integrating Sustainability Standards in South–South Trade Policies Can Improve Producers' Livelihoods in Developing Countries, New Report Shows
Trade between developing countries and regions—known as "South–South trade"—is growing rapidly. In the past couple of decades, its value has grown almost tenfold, from USD 600 billion in 1995 to USD 5.3 trillion in 2021. A new report from the International Institute for Sustainable Development explores how governments in developing countries are using voluntary sustainability standards in their trade policies to ensure this growth benefits small-scale producers, communities, and the environment.
Integrating Standards in South–South Trade Policies Can Improve Producers' Livelihoods, New Report Shows
New report explores how governments in developing countries are using sustainability standards in trade policy to ensure that growth in South–South trade benefits farmers and the environment.
Sustainability Initiatives Falling Short for Sugar Cane Farmers in Developing Countries
Sugar cane is considered one of the most valuable agricultural commodities in the world and provides livelihoods for more than 100 million people in 120 countries. But many sugar cane farmers in developing countries live in poverty—and initiatives aimed at supporting them are falling short of their potential. A new report from the International Institute for Sustainable Development explores recent market trends in the sugar cane sector, what these trends mean for producers in developing countries, and what voluntary sustainability standards, governments, and private sector actors can do to improve farmers' incomes.
South-South Trade and Voluntary Sustainability Standards
This report explores how voluntary sustainability standards are being used in trade policy to increase the trade of more sustainable products between developing countries.
Global Market Report: Sugar cane prices and sustainability
This report explores recent market trends in the sugar cane sector, what these trends mean for producers in developing countries, and what can be done to improve farmers' incomes.
Border Carbon Adjustments: Pivotal design choices for policy-makers
This policy brief covers the pivotal choices in the design of border carbon adjustments, aiming to provide useful insights to policy-makers and set the ground for the broader discussions about the best practices.
Border Carbon Adjustments: Priorities for international cooperation
This IISD policy brief looks into border carbon adjustment design elements that are priorities for international cooperation, as well as the possible venues, formats, and shapes that such a discussion might take.
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.