EU research recommends a ‘sustainable’ overhaul for the WTO

The EU's Trade Commissioner has released further information on research into the impact of World Trade Organisation decisions on sustainable development targets. The research recommends reform of the WTO in order to protect environmental and social health of the planet.


All 15 measures that may be negotiated at the WTO’s next set of talks have the power to impact significantly on environmental or social quality of life, according to University of Manchester researchers (see related story). The EU Trade Commission has asked the academics to assess the measures and recommend ways of mitigating or reducing negative impacts from global trade liberalisation.

Assessing how each measure may affect the EU, developing world countries and the world as a whole, the Sustainability Impact Assessment Study: Phase Two says that “subsidiary principles consistent with inter and intra-generational equity and environmental and social policy principles of sustainable development should be respected in trade policies”. It mentions polluter pays, user pays, precautionary principle (see separate story in this section of edie news) and distributive justice specifically.

The study authors also emphasise the need for WTO rules to work in harmony with other international and national systems of regulation – including environmental regulation and policies aimed at assisting developing world countries.

Providing an initial set of “mitigating and enhancing measures”, the study seeks to show how trade liberalisation could be introduced with fewer short and long-term negative impacts in terms of wealth inequality, social and environmental degradation. The authors suggest:

  • remove or modify trade-related practices which reduce economic welfare, increase income or other forms of inequality, intensify pressure on environmental quality and encourage over-use of natural resources
  • encouragement of greater economic efficiency leading to increased economic welfare

A meeting will be held later this month to allow the Trade Directorate General to receive interested parties’ views on the research.

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