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Trade and environment

Sustainable development and protection and preservation of the environment are fundamental goals of the WTO. They are enshrined in the Marrakesh Agreement, which established the WTO, and complement the WTO’s objective to reduce trade barriers and eliminate discriminatory treatment in international trade relations. While there is no specific agreement dealing with the environment, under WTO rules members can adopt trade-related measures aimed at protecting the environment provided a number of conditions to avoid the misuse of such measures for protectionist ends are fulfilled.

The WTO contributes to protection and preservation of the environment through its objective of trade openness, through its rules and enforcement mechanism, through work in different WTO bodies, and through ongoing efforts under the Doha Development Agenda. The Doha Agenda includes specific negotiations on trade and environment and some tasks assigned to the regular Trade and Environment Committee.

> See introduction to the trade and environment debate 

Click for Doha Development Agenda gatewaySee also:
Negotiations, implementation and development: the Doha agenda
Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration
Fisheries subsidies



News    back to top


Trade and environment in the WTO    back to top

  • Introduction

    Through its goals, rules, institutions and forward-looking agenda, the WTO provides an important means of advancing international environmental goals.

  • History

    Trade and environment, as an issue, is by no means new. The link between trade and environmental protection — both the impact of environmental policies on trade, and the impact of trade on the environment — was recognized as early as 1970. Towards the end of the Uruguay Round (1986–1994), attention was once again drawn to trade-related environmental issues, and the role of the soon-to-be-created World Trade Organization.


Work in the WTO    back to top

  • Regular Trade and Environment Committee

    The Trade and Environment Committee is the standing forum dedicated to dialogue between governments on the impact of trade policies on the environment, and of environment policies on trade. Created in 1995, the Committee has followed a comprehensive work programme.

  • Click for Doha Development Agenda gateway Under the Doha Development Agenda, the regular committee is also looking at the effects of environmental measures on market access, the intellectual property agreement and biodiversity, and labelling for environmental purposes.


  • Negotiations

  • Click for Doha Development Agenda gatewayIn the Doha Round, WTO members are negotiating certain aspects of the link between trade and the environment, particularly the relationship between the WTO’s agreements and those of other agencies, and market access for environmental goods and services. These talks take place in “Special Sessions” of the Trade and Environment Committee.


WTO rules and environmental policies back to top

Measures aimed at protecting the environment come in various shapes and forms. Under WTO rules, as confirmed by WTO jurisprudence, members can adopt trade-related measures aimed at protecting the environment, subject to certain specified conditions.


Trade and environment topical issues     back to top

  • Trade and Climate Change

    The issue of climate change, per se, is not part of the WTO's ongoing work programme and there are no WTO rules specific to climate change. However, the WTO is relevant because climate change measures and policies intersect with international trade in a number of different ways.

  • Trade and green economy

    The WTO offers a powerful supporting framework for sustainable development and green economy. It provides an enabling environment through its objectives, institutions and monitoring of potential trade protectionism, enforcement mechanism, toolbox of rules, and growing case law in the environment area.


Technical assistance    back to top

WTO technical assistance on trade and the environment aims to help developing countries participate more effectively in the work of the Trade and Environment Committee and in the negotiations.


Upcoming events


Recent events


> 20 years of building pathways to sustainable development
28 avril 2015


> 2014 Advanced Course on Trade and Environment
24 March — 4 April 2014


Workshop on Environmental Technology Dissemination
12 November 2012 


The Outcomes of Rio+20: An Informal Dialogue Among Stakeholders
12 September 2012 


> More events


 Recent Documents

> Environmental Database 2012

> 2013 Report of the CTE

> Report of the CTESS to the Trade Negotiations Committee

> MEAs trade measures matrix

> List of CTE Documents…


> Building pathways to sustainable development



Harnessing Trade for Sustainable Development and a Green Economy



Trade and Climate Change





> Trade and Environment at the WTO