Concerted Action on Trade and Environment

Funded by: European Commission DG Research


December 2002 to November 2005

PSI researchers:

Background, summary and aims

Background and Aims

The trade and environment policy and research agendas have expanded rapidly. Following conclusion of the Uruguay Round in 1994 the agenda of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) encompasses new issues, such as agriculture, trade in services, intellectual property rights, investment, competition policy, and government procurement. As the WTO agenda expanded so have the intersections between trade policy and other policy areas, such as environment, consumer protection, sustainable development, human rights, public health, and labour. The linkage between trade and environment stands out. Both policy areas have an inescapable international dimension, which necessitates resolution of potential conflicts at the international level. Environmental measures almost always have economic implications and can affect trade. They also entail the risk of protectionist capture. Conversely trade policy measures can adversely affect the ability of environmental policy makers to achieve their goals. Yet well designed trade policies and environmental policies can complement each other effectively. Virtually every one of the agreements that make up the Uruguay Round has an environmental dimension, and in many instances that dimension has now come to the forefront. In practice the environment is deeply embedded in the trade policy agenda.

Project Design

This is a European Concerted Action rather than a research project as such. It is designed to provide an opportunity for the large and growing community of European researchers working on trade and environment issues to meet regularly, to discuss research hypotheses and methods, to review results, and to develop new lines of cooperative research. CATE will launch a dialogue with policy makers at all levels. It will create a process that can document the progress of research in this area and advance the resolution of current conflicts between trade and environment. There has been a steady expansion of the research effort in terms of the countries involved. By now all the large member states of the European Union have several research centres that are engaged in this work. All other member states have at least one research centre that has already published or has indicated the intention to reinforce its efforts in this area. It is important to ensure there is debate between these research centres and to draw new participants into the process, including the dialogue with policy makers. CATE will proceed through organising meetings and conferences, preparing literature reviews and state-of-the-art reports, and generating new research projects to take forward the trade and environment research agenda.

Importance of Research

Trade and environment is an important, and potentially, critical, area for the WTO and other trade fora. By organising a full debate on the broad range of issues arising in this area, involving policy makers, other stakeholders and researchers, CATE will give support for EU efforts to integrate environmental concerns into trade policy and promote EU research leadership and improvement of research net-working and capacity building between EU countries. A Trade Policy Advisory Group will be formed to include policy makers from the European commission and the governments of the countries where Lead Participants are located.

For further information on this project contact Paul Ekins