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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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