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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 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.

An enduring concern for both developed and developing countries is the balance between environmental policy and the international competitiveness of both nations and individual firms. The trade and competitiveness research committee of the green growth knowledge platform examines the effects of green growth policies on the patterns and volume of trade, on national and firm competitiveness, and on employment. The green economy offers an opportunity to improve both global trade governance and the domestic trade environment to ensure that trade contributes positively to a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.