- Trade topics
- Sustainable development
What is sustainable development?
Sustainable development means meeting the needs of the present whilst ensuring future generations can meet their own needs.
It has three pillars: economic, environmental and social. To achieve sustainable development, policies in these three areas have to work together and support each other.
In 2015, world leaders agreed on Agenda 2030, a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets proposed by the United Nations.
The EU was instrumental in shaping Agenda 2030. The EU and its member countries are fully committed to implementing Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals into EU policies.
The Commission is currently reviewing its Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) policy.
EU trade policy and sustainable development
EU law requires all relevant EU policies, including trade policy, to promote sustainable development. EU trade policy aims to ensure that economic development goes hand in hand with:
- social justice;
- respect for human rights;
- high labour standards, and;
- high environmental standards.
The EU strives to ensure trade policy helps promote sustainable development through:
- EU trade agreements;
- special incentives for developing countries, and;
- trade and development policy.
The EU promotes sustainable development by addressing specific issues in EU trade policy:
Sustainable development in EU trade agreements
Modern EU trade agreements contain rules on trade and sustainable development.
Through its trade policy the EU supports the implementation of international environmental rules, set mainly in multilateral environmental agreements.
The EU's trade policy, alongside its foreign policy and development cooperation, supports respect for human rights in non-EU countries.
The EU uses increased trade opportunities to promote improved labour standards while preventing a 'race to the bottom'.
EU trade policy seeks to help ensure that companies produce their products responsibly, respecting workers and the environment.
More on sustainable development
- 2019 FTA Implementation Report
- 2019 Commission Staff Working Document 'Individual reports and info sheets on implementation of EU Free Trade Agreements'
- 2018 FTA Implementation Report
- 2018 Commission Staff Working Document 'Individual reports and info sheets on implementation of EU Free Trade Agreements'
- Fact sheet on EU cooperation with ILO
- Trade, Growth and Development Implementation Report
- 10 Ways the EU Trade and Development Policy supports the LDCs
- TSD Handbook: Implementation of the Chapter on Trade and Sustainable Development in the Trade Agreement between EU and Ecuador
Sustainable development in other Commission departments
- Climate Action
- Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
- International Cooperation and Development