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Direction de l'Environnement

Environment and Regional Trade Agreements

 

Regional trade agreements (RTAs) aim to promote free trade and economic integration and provide important ways to foster environmental objectives between trading partners. They complement the multilateral trading system and can take various forms including, Free Trade Agreements, Customs Unions, and Economic Integration Agreements.

Trade agreements are increasingly linked to environmental concerns as the world economy becomes more integrated and global environmental issues become more pressing.

Since 2005, OECD’s Joint Working Party on Trade and Environment (JWPTE) has been carrying out work on RTAs and the environment, focusing on four workstreams:

  • Tracking typology of environmental provisions in RTAs
  • Examining the implementation and effectiveness of environmental provisions in RTAs;
  • Exploring ways to improve environmental policy coherence within these agreements;
  • Organising workshops to ensure an inclusive agenda.

Brochure (PDF)

Key messages

  • Countries increasingly incorporate environmental objectives in RTAs. Between 1947 and 2021, 671 out of 775 RTAs (around 87%) included at least one type of environmental provision as a part of the agreement. The average number of environmental provisions included in an agreement increased from around 8 provisions in the 1990s, to nearly 19 provisions in the 2000s, and to over 44 provisions in the 2010s.
  • Anecdotal evidence suggests that some RTAs with environmental provisions have led to positive environmental outcomes by:
    • strengthening environmental laws and regulations,
    • introducing new institutional arrangements,
    • promoting co-operation on improving environmental law and enforcement, and
    • improving environmental awareness.
  • Governments can pursue environment objectives throughout different chapters and articles to improve policy coherence within an agreement.
    • Provisions can help align the right to regulate for the environment with free and fair trade.
    • Provisions can be considered to promote trade that contributes to positive environmental outcomes.
    • Provisions can also be considered to avoid negative environmental consequences.
    • Provisions can also work to strengthen environmental governance.

Tracking typology of environmental provisions in RTAs

A growing number of RTAs are extending their scope to cover policy objectives for environmental protection and sustainable development by incorporating environmental provisions.

 

For further details, see:

Implementation and effectivenes of environmental provisions in RTAs

In an effort to better understand how environmental provisions in RTAs have an impact on environmental outcomes, the implementation and effectiveness of environmental provisions in RTAs have been evaluated.

Securing policy coherence – "Greening RTAs"

OECD work on “greening RTAs” investigates how different chapters and articles in an RTA can reflect environmental objectives to ensure an integrated policy framework and coherent set of objectives for these agreements to generate environmentally positive outcomes.

 

OECD Workshops on RTAs and the environment

The OECD, under the auspices of the JWPTE, organised a series of workshops to establish inclusive dialogues on RTAs and the environment, where government officials and experts from OECD and non-OECD countries gathered together to share their experience in a non-negotiating setting.

 RTA Fig 6

 

Further reading

 

Related links

 

Contacts

The work on  Regional Trade Agreements and the Environment is led by the Enviornment and Economy Intgegration Division in the OECD Environment Directorate. For more information, contact:

 

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