Trade in Transforming Our World: Options for Follow-Up and Review of the Trade-Related Elements of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

65 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2016

See all articles by Alice Tipping

Alice Tipping

International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD)

Robert Wolfe

Queen's University - School of Policy Studies

Date Written: June 1, 2016


Trade and trade policy are central to transforming our world, the objective of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Trade can make a crucial contribution to sustainable development objectives, including economic growth and poverty reduction, but requires a coherent policy framework that links helping businesses harness trading opportunities with managing the social, economic and environmental impacts of trade. Ensuring policy learning about how trade can contribute to the 2030 Agenda requires robust follow-up and review of the new global framework.

The first aim of this paper is to map where trade-related elements are found in the 2030 Agenda. The second aim is to describe the architecture for follow-up and review that could support these commitments, and to map where it exists or could be built. The 2030 Agenda in itself will not cause anything to change, let alone ensure policy coherence, but the review process might.

The contribution of trade to the 2030 Agenda is diffuse, which means follow-up and review will be a challenge, but it need not be overly burdensome, and it will be useful. This paper presents options for how progress towards these trade-related commitments could be reviewed in the years to 2030. The process would provide information on progress based on inputs from governments, civil society and international organisations. This information would be reviewed through self-assessment by states themselves, through peer learning by other governments at the regional level (for example in United Nations regional commissions), and at the global level in multilateral agencies and the High-Level Political Forum, the apex of the follow-up and review process. The point of these review processes is not ‘evaluation’, but the sharing of experiences as a way to facilitate learning and policy improvement.

The paper identifies six clusters of trade-related elements in the 2030 Agenda. These elements range from improving access to trade finance to strengthening the multilateral trading system. They include commitments to the reform of perverse subsidies to agriculture, fisheries and fossil fuels, and to ensuring that regional trade and investment agreements are coherent with sustainable development. For each cluster, the paper identifies options for indicators, where the necessary data are already collected (if they are) and where progress against these political commitments could be reviewed. The analysis does not pretend to be exhaustive, but to provide a starting point for further discussion.

The paper then presents the information from another perspective, focusing on the potential roles of the various peer review mechanisms, summarised in Box 2. These mechanisms range from multilateral reviews like the Trade Policy Review Mechanism of the World Trade Organization and UNCTAD’s voluntary policy peer reviews to regional mechanisms that could review groups of states, like the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development or regional economic integration organisations like Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.

The last part of the paper explains how the various reports could be brought together. Given the profusion of options for review mechanisms, an inter-agency task force on trade could provide an analytical synthesis of reporting and reviews useful for discussions at national, regional and global levels on the interrelated effects and trade-offs between goals.

Keywords: trade, 2030 Agenda, SDGs, AAAA, WTO, UNCTAD, OECD, United Nations

Suggested Citation

Tipping, Alice and Wolfe, Robert, Trade in Transforming Our World: Options for Follow-Up and Review of the Trade-Related Elements of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (June 1, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Alice Tipping

International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) ( email )

International Environmental House 2
Chemin de Balexert 7
Chatelaine, Geneva, GE 1219

Robert Wolfe (Contact Author)

Queen's University - School of Policy Studies ( email )

Ontario K7L 3N6

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