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Sustainable development | Brussels, 11 July 2017

European Commission starts a debate on Trade and Sustainable Development in EU Trade Agreements

The European Commission today publishes a non-paper on trade and sustainable development (TSD) in EU trade agreements. It follows the Commission’s recent reflection paper on harnessing globalisation, which underlined the EU’s commitment to a fair, international, rules-based order based on high standards, cooperation and strengthening of multilateral institutions.

The paper, sent today from the European Commission services to the European Parliament and the Council, is intended to contribute to a debate in the coming months on:

  • whether the current Trade and Sustainable Development chapters are meeting expectations, and what could be done to improve them.
  • whether a more assertive partnership on trade and sustainable development in bilateral Free Trade Agreements should be pursued
  • whether a sanction based approach would address the shortcomings identified
  • whether any other issues related to trade and sustainable development need to be addressed.


The Commission is committed to including a chapter on Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) in trade agreements as part of the EU’s value-based trade agenda.

There is overall strong support in the EU for including ambitious commitments on labour rights and environmental protection, as well as active role of civil society, in current and future Free Trade Agreements.

In trade and sustainable development chapters currently included in trade agreements, the EU's partners are required to take up major international labour and environmental principles, implement them effectively, and not lower them to encourage trade or investment. The EU works with trade partners to ensure that the sustainable development aspects of the agreements are enforced and that workers' rights and other labour standards, as well as commitments to protect the environment and natural resources are respected. It includes civil society in the process and funds projects to help with implementation.

For further information

Discussion paper

Overview of negotiations