International trade has become an increasingly important driver of economic growth and a central part of the development strategy of a large number of developing countries. The World Summit on Sustainable Development Plan of Implementation and the World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Ministerial Declaration have stressed the major role that trade can play in achieving sustainable development and eradicating poverty. Trade liberalization has in fact the potential to stimulate powerful economic, social and environmental change. However, to allow developing countries to fully benefit from the opportunities for growth and poverty alleviation that trade can bring and to ensure that this growth is environmentally sustainable is a major challenge.
In recent years, there have been rapid developments in international trade including the negotiation of numerous multilateral and bilateral trade agreements. During this time there has been much negotiation on and discussion of trade and environmental issues including trade related environmental measures and trade measures with environmental impacts. In addition, implementation obligations arising from Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) to which developing countries are party can raise issues of compatibility with trade obligations. The complexity of these developments has increased the challenges confronting developing Member States as they attempt to formulate coherent trade and environment policies.
While there is much potential for trade and environment measures to work in a mutually supportive manner, it is common that, by failing to address these inter-linkages, legal and policy measures in one area undermine the objectives of the other.
In order to assist Member Countries in better understanding the interlinkages between trade and the environment, UNESCAP has been implementing the project "Capacity Building in Trade and the Environment". The project was a joint undertaking of the UN Regional Commissions and in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the WTO. The project aimed to enhance the capacity of developing Member States to formulate coherent trade and environment policies that address issues related to environment in an effective manner, thereby increasing market access for products while enhancing environmental sustainability. Importantly, by focusing on both trade flows out and trade flows in to developing countries, the project furthered the capacity of developing countries to address trade and environment issues within a complete and coherent context. In so doing, it meaningfully complemented previous projects that have focused solely on trade and environment linkages associated with trade flows out of developing countries. The project focused on these issues through a sectoral approach, at a regional and sub-regional and national level as appropriate that identifies and builds on cross-regional synergies.
All information relating to the project and all documentation produced is available on-line on a dedicated website at:
Project activities in the Asia-Pacific region focused on the food and food processing sector, including agriculture, horticulture, aquaculture and fisheries, and food processing. A regional study and a number of country case studies analyzed the trade and environment dimensions of the food and food processing industries in Asia and the Pacific, and identify good practices and lessons learner across the region. The studies provided the knowledge base for four regional and sub-regional workshops to compare and discuss the various government policies and private sector strategies currently in place in the concerned countries to improve both the export competitiveness and the environmental sustainability of food and processed food production.