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+);
- 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
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 magazine 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.
Greening Aid for Trade: Future priorities and pathways for a just transition to sustainable trade
This event aims create strategies to facilitate Aid for Trade and cooperation on environmental issues as a key pillar of sustainable trade to advance a green and inclusive global economy.
The WTO Fisheries Subsidies Agreement: What was agreed and what happens next?
This webinar will bring together experts to discuss the rules and prohibitions of the new WTO fisheries subsidies agreement.
Reclaiming the Feminist Space in the Global “Trade and Gender” Debate: What role for human rights?
This roundtable will bring together experts on women’s rights, feminist economics, and trade policy to assess opportunities to advance gender equality in trade policy.
IISD at the 2022 UN Ocean Conference
IISD experts participated in the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon to share insights on topics related to trade and sustainability in ocean-based economies.
Executive Director, IISD Europe; Senior Director, Economic Law & Policy
Senior Director, Energy
Senior Manager, Communications & Engagement
Senior Policy Advisor
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, Tracking Progress
Lead II, Sustainability Standards
Lead, Sustainable Trade and Fisheries Subsidies
Senior Director, Tracking Progress
Quad and the WTO focus on fishing
Some rare good news in global trade talks, and attempts to tackle an ecological and human rights disaster.
Greening Aid for Trade: Pathways for a just transition to sustainable trade
This policy brief is a summary of ideas on how Aid for Trade can be shaped to better respond to developing countries' interests in more environmentally sustainable production and trade patterns.
It’s Taken More than 20 Years and Is Full of Holes, but a New International Agreement Targets Fishing Subsidies
After 20 years of failed negotiations, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has secured a deal to curb harmful subsidies that contribute to overfishing. Conservationists and campaign groups welcomed last week’s agreement as historic, despite criticism of “big holes” in the agreement.
What's the Outlook on Tax Certainty for MNEs Subject to Amount A?
Readers who follow international tax developments will be familiar with the political dynamic that led to last year's unprecedented agreement among 137 countries on the so-called two-pillar solution regarding taxation of business profits of multinational enterprises (MNEs). Numerous countries' piecemeal adoption of digital services taxes and other unilateral tax measures aimed at nonresident MNEs provoked retaliatory action by the US in the form of tariffs, or the threat of tariffs, on a wide range of exports to the US from those countries.
First WTO deal on fishing subsidies hailed as historic despite 'big holes'
After 20 years of failed negotiations, the World Trade Organization has secured a deal to curb harmful subsidies that contribute to overfishing. Conservationists and campaign groups welcomed last week’s agreement as historic, despite criticism of “big holes” in the agreement.
Battling to define success after the WTO summit
It’s a little over three days after the World Trade Organization ministerial came to an agreement as dawn broke over Lake Geneva, and I’m sure some attendees are still catching up on sleep. There’s been a veritable banquet since of hot takes for you to choose from. Among the more thoughtful and optimistic are this thread from academic and former WTO official Nicolas Lamp and this on the fishing subsidies issue from piscine guru Alice Tipping. In today’s main piece I talk with Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the institution’s director-general, who was very pugnacious indeed in declaring the ministerial a success, and muse on a couple of themes about how negotiations work and what they mean.
Minister Ng welcomes successful Twelfth Ministerial Conference in Geneva
Canada is a trading nation and a strong proponent of the international rules-based multilateral trading system, with the World Trade Organization (WTO) at its core. Multilateralism is essential in achieving a strong, sustainable and inclusive global economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic.
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.