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Sustainability Impact Assessments

Trade Sustainability Impact Assessments are a policy tool for the prior assessment of the economic, social and environmental implications of a trade negotiation. They are carried out during the underlying negotiation, and helps integrate sustainability into trade policy.

These assessments were first developed in 1999 for the WTO-DDA negotiations. Since then they have been applied to all the EU's major multilateral, regional or bilateral trade negotiations.

These assessments help to integrate sustainability into trade policy:

  • by analysing the issues covered by a trade negotiation from a sustainable development perspective;
  • by informing negotiators of the possible social, environmental and economic consequences of a trade agreement;
  • by providing guidelines for the design of possible flanking (complementary) measures, the scope of which can extend beyond trade policy (eg, internal policy, capacity building, international regulation), and which are intended to maximise the positive impacts and reduce any negative impacts of the trade negotiations in question.

How are the assessments carried out?

Trade Sustainability Impact Assessments are independent studies conducted by external consultants.

Studies involve comprehensive consultation of stakeholders to ensure a high degree of transparency and to take account of the knowledge and concerns of relevant interest groups both in the EU and in the partner country/region.

The assessments study the likely impacts of trade liberalisation in areas such as income, employment, capital investment, equity and poverty, health and education, gender inequality, environmental quality of air, water and land, biological diversity and other natural resource stocks.

What are the results?

The Commission sets out its own views on the basis of the impacts identified in the assessments and on the policy measures proposed to address them.

All reports delivered by the consultants are published on this website, together with the European Commission's views (the "Position Papers"). The results of the assessment guide EU negotiators in determining the best possible outcome of a trade negotiation. They also provide guidelines for the design of possible policy measures to accompany the trade agreement.

Details of all assessments

More on Sustainability Impact Assessments

The handbook provides a comprehensive description of how Trade SIAs currently work and lays out some of the key issues and principles that require particular attention for Trade SIA practitioners and policy makers. SIA Methodology Handbook.