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United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development



Trade and Sustainable Development is addressed in Chapter 2 of Agenda 21, and in Chapter V and Chapter X of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.

Trade liberalisation and globalisation can have both positive and negative effects on sustainable development. There is a continued need to support efforts by developing countries to integrate themselves into and derive benefits from the multilateral trading system. At the same time, attention also must be given to enhancing the contribution of the multilateral trading system to sustainable development.

A supportive international economic environment is crucial. Agenda 21 calls for "a supportive international climate for achieving environment and development goals by:

  1. promoting sustainable development through trade liberalisation;
  2. making trade and environment mutually supportive;
  3. providing adequate financial resources to developing countries dealing with international debt; and
  4. encouraging macroeconomic policies conducive to environment and development."

Trade and sustainable development were discussed at the first, second, third, fourth and fifth session of the Commission. Within the framework of the Commission's multi-year programme of work, this issue was again discussed at the eighth session, together with economic growth and investment, as one of the major cross-sectoral themes.

The outcome of the Rio+20 ( and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development ( recognize that international trade plays a fundamental role in promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, creating jobs, raising incomes and enhancing welfare of peoples.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development defines international trade as “an engine for inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction, [that] contributes to the promotion of sustainable development”. The adoption of Agenda 2030 commits UN member states to continue to promote “meaningful” trade liberalization over the next 15 years to help maximize the contribution of trade to the success of the sustainable development agenda. In this context, international trade is expected to play its role as a means of implementation for the achievement of the SDGs.

As major institutional stakeholders on trade and the SDGs issues, UNCTAD, WTO, and International Trade Center monitor trends, analyze policy and build analytical capacity for making international trade an engine for sustainable development.

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Displaying 1 - 15 of 21
Title Type Date
Expert Group Meeting on SDG 17: Thematic review Concept Notes 1-Feb-2019
A/73/258 - Entrepreneurship for Sustainable Development Secretary-General Reports 26-Jul-2018
A/72/418 - Macroeconomic policy questions Resolutions and decisions 8-Dec-2017
A/71/461 - Macroeconomic policy questions Resolutions and decisions 12-Dec-2016
A/70/470/Add.1 - Macroeconomic policy questions: International trade and development: Report of the Second… Resolutions and decisions 15-Dec-2015
A/70/470 - Macroeconomic policy questions: Report of the Second Committee Resolutions and decisions 14-Dec-2015
A/RES/69/313- Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (Addis… Resolutions and decisions 15-Jul-2015
A/69/466/Add.1- Macroeconomic policy questions: international trade and development Other documents 4-Dec-2014
Outcome Document - Introduction to the Proposal of the Open Working Group for Sustainable Development Goals Outcome Documents 19-Jul-2014
TST Issues Brief: Macroeconomic policy questions (including international trade, international financial… Technical Support Team (TST) Issues Briefs 16-Oct-2013
E/CN.17/2001/19 - Report on the 9th Decision on International Cooperation for an Enabling Environment Meeting reports 16-Apr-2001
E/CN.17/2001/PC/10 - Finance and Trade Secretary-General Reports 2-Mar-2001
E/CN.17/2000/4 - Economic growth, trade and investment Secretary-General Reports 31-Jan-2000
E/CN.17/1996/8/Add.1 - Key Issues in Trade and Environment Debate Secretary-General Reports 10-Apr-1996
E/CN.17/1996/8 - Trade, Environment and Sustainable Development Secretary-General Reports 3-Apr-1996


  • January 2016 UNCTAD XIV
    The fourteenth session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD XIV) will bring together Heads of State and Government, ministers and other prominent players from the business world, civil society and academia to tackle global trade and economic development issues. The quadrennial Conference will also represent a unique opportunity to consider the most appropriate means of delivering on the post-2015 development agenda. It will also decide on UNCTAD’s programme of work.
  • January 2015 Targets 17.10 - 17.12
    Within Sustainable Development Goal 17, its targets 10,11 and 12 are devoted to trade. Target 10, in particular, aims to promote a multilateral trading system which has to be universal, rules-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable. Target 11 reiterates the commitment taken both in the Istanbul Programme of Action and in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda to double, by 2020, the least developed countries’ share of global exports. Target 12 calls for the timely implementation of duty-free and quota -free market access for least developing countries. This should be on a lasting basis and and consistent with the decisions adopted by the World Trade Organization.
  • January 2015 AAAA (Chap. 2 D)
    The Addis Ababa Action Agenda recognizes International Trade as "an engine for inclusive development growth and poverty reduction" and focuses on the problems generated by the lack of access to trade finance and the limitations it can bring to a country's trading potential. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda reiterates as well the commitment formulated in the Istanbul Programme of Action of doubling, by 2020, the share of global exports from least developed countries.
  • These para of the Future We Want are devoted to trade and to the role that trade plays in stimulating economic growth. In particular, paragraph 281 reaffirms the role of both international trade as "an engine for development and sustained economic growth" and of a multilateral trading system "as meaningful trade liberalization, can play in stimulating economic growth and development worldwide". Therefore,"all countries at all stages of development, as they advance towards sustainable development" can benefit from trade. Paragraph 282 urges "members of WTO to redouble their efforts to achieve an ambitious, balanced and development-oriented conclusion to the Doha Development Agenda, while respecting the principles of transparency, inclusiveness and consensual decision-making, with a view to strengthening the multilateral trading system. In order to effectively participate in the work programme of WTO and fully realize trade opportunities, developing countries need the assistance and enhanced cooperation of all relevant stakeholders".
  • January 2002 JPOI (Chap.10)
    Chapter 10 of the JPOI recalls "the major role that trade can play in achieving sustainable development and in eradicating poverty" and encourages "members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to pursue the work programme agreed at their Fourth Ministerial Conference". The Plan also lists a series of actions to be taken by the WTO in order for developing countries to secure their share in the growth of world trade commensurate with the needs of their economic development.
  • January 1992 Agenda 21 (Chap.2)
    Chapter 2 focuses on international cooperation as tool to "accelerate sustainable development in developing countries and related domestic policies". Its first programme area consists of promoting sustainable development through trade. As goals to be achieved in this particular area, Agenda 21 identifies the need to promote an open, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system enabling all countries to improve their economic structures and improve the standards of living of their populations. A particular attention is also devoted to improve access to markets for exports of developing countries and improve the functioning of commodity markets.