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 Trade and Sustainability Review. We hold regular 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+);
- the Pew Charitable Trusts;
- the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ);
- the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida);
- the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Swedish MFA);
- the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (NZ MFAT);
- the Government of Finland.
Trade and Sustainability Hub
This three day virtual conference will provide a platform for trade and sustainable development policy discussion.
IISD at the WTO Public Forum
IISD continued its tradition of participating in the WTO's largest outreach event, the Public Forum, in September 2021.
Past trade events
View a list of IISD's past events and webinars with a focus on trade and sustainable development.
Executive Director, IISD Europe; Senior Director, Economic Law & Policy
Senior Director, Energy
Senior Manager, Communications & Engagement
Senior Policy Advisor
Policy Advisor, Fisheries Subsidies
Writer, Earth Negotiations Bulletin
Lead, Sustainability Standards
Soledad Leal Campos
Lead, Sustainable Trade
Director, Agriculture, Trade & Investment
Lead, Sustainable Trade and Fisheries Subsidies
Senior Director, Tracking Progress
Senior Law Advisor
Increased Trade Cooperation Would Build Economic Resilience, WTO Says
A new WTO report examines why our global trading system is both more vulnerable and more resilient to crises and what can be done to better prepare it.
Mainstreaming Gender in Trade Policy: Practice, evidence, and ways forward
Gender-related provisions are becoming more common in trade agreements. To what extent do they help—or hinder—efforts to achieve gender equality?
France Delays Sanctions Against Britain Amid “Constructive” Talks Over Fishing Rights
Trade sanctions have been delayed as talks to defuse a row between France and the United Kingdom over post-Brexit fishing rights begin.
Experts call for Improved Protection of African Fisheries
With subsidies of global fisheries back on the World Trade Organization's agenda, experts are calling for African governments to upscale the protection of the sector long plagued by activities that continue to threaten the continent's blue economy.
Counting carbon in the food export business
Climate change is influencing the way consumers demand food. "Food miles" was an early expression of consumer power with farmers and campaigners in Europe and the US in the 2000s, promoting the idea that the distance a product travels from farm to the consumer contributes significantly to the overall carbon footprint of a food product.
Voluntary Sustainability Standards, Forest Conservation, and Environmental Provisions in International Trade Policy
Deforestation rates are slowing, but not fast enough. Public and private sectors are increasingly engaging with international trade measures to help.
Chinese Investment in Africa Rises as Project Values and Bilateral Trade Decline
China continued to invest heavily in Africa during the pandemic, but some African countries are suspending or scrutinizing contracts with Chinese firms.
Investment Law & Policy
How can we ensure developing countries attract the sort of 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.