International Trade

Sustainability is a key issue in the context of trade and investment – both between States and private actors. In SMART, we explore the complex legal regimes which govern this important dynamic with reference to public international law, international economic law, international human rights law, international environmental law, development, international labour law, investment law, financial securities law, EU external relations.

In particular, we look at:

• How tariffs and quantitative restrictions may be imposed on the basis of environmental and other sustainability standards with reference to the EU Generalised System of Preferences but also rules established under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (the GATT).

• Whether such standards can and should be treated as non-tariff barriers under World Trade Organisation (WTO) Agreements and other multilateral, regional, and national instruments.

• Issues regarding social sustainability arising by virtue of trade in services, which includes the movement of natural persons.

• The operation of investment treaties and investment clauses in bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) and in particular whether the imposition of environmental and other sustainability standards can be treated as indirect expropriation or in breach of national treatment or performance requirement clauses.

• The significance of competition and public procurement chapters in the latest generation of FTAs for sustainability objectives.

• Governance issues arising in the WTO and affecting EU external relations, bearing in mind the significance of participatory mechanisms for sustainable development, as recognised in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 16).

• Regulation of global value supply chains, through avenues such as the International Finance Corporation and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Performance Standards and through forms of private law regulation.

Throughout, we are concerned with evolving understandings of sustainable development, as manifested in the 2015 UN Sustainable Development Goals, as well as sustainability objectives under the Treaty on European Union (Articles 3 and 21).

The need for policy coherence with attention to people, planet and prosperity underlies our research, and in 2019 we will have identified options and reforms that promote market actors’ development-friendly choices where environmental, social and economic externalities in the global supply chains of products are internalised.