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Trade and sustainability

The EU sustainable development strategy aims to include sustainable development concerns in all EU external policies including trade. Consequently the EU includes a chapter on trade and sustainable development in all its free-trade and investment agreements (FTAs). It has become a standard feature of FTAs to include labour and environmental aspects, either combined in sustainability chapters or in separate side agreements that require each party to:

  • Apply their own laws and uphold their levels of protection (EU free-trade agreements include an obligation not to weaken national standards with a view to fostering trade and investment);
  • Comply with certain international principles (ratified International Labour Organisation core conventions and multilateral environmental agreements).

For BusinessEurope trade and investment agreements have enhancing trade and investment as main objective, while they can be a way to develop shared commitments on labour and environmental issues, ensuring that each party implements its labour and environmental laws and policies, whilst committing to continuous improvement.


Position papers Date
A business agenda on sustainability 06/12/2017
TTIP: the sustainability chapter 18/05/2015
Reports and studies Date
Sustainable supply chains 04/01/2017


Maurice Fermont

Senior Adviser
+32 2 237 65 04
Last updated: 6 July 2016