How are trade and environmental sustainability compatible?
The expansion of world trade and the increasing integration of global value chains raises questions about the interaction between trade and the environment.
What impact does trade have on the environment?
Conversely, how can a changing natural environment alter trade patterns?
What are the short and long-term significances?
Can an optimal mix of trade and environmental policy take advantage of trade while minimizing environmental costs?
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Trade can have both positive and negative effects on the environment
Economic growth resulting from the expansion of trade can have obvious direct effects on the environment, increasing pollution or degrading natural resources.
In addition, trade liberalization in some countries can lead to specialization in pollution-intensive activities.
If environmental policies differ from country to country, the so-called polluted harbor hypothesis.
However, increased trade can, in turn, enhance the ability to manage the environment more efficiently by supporting.
Economic growth, development, and social well-being. More prominently, open markets can progress access to new machinery.
That makes limited production processes more efficient by reducing inputs such as energy, water, and other environmentally harmful substances.
Likewise, the liberalization of trade and investment can provide incentives for companies to introduce higher environmental standards.
The more a country is integrated into the global economy, the more its export sector is exposed to the environmental requirements of large importers.
The changes are necessary to meet these requirements flow backward through the supply chain and encourage cleaner production processes and technologies.
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Consequences from climate change can disrupt trade
The direct impact of climate change on trade could result from more frequent extreme weather events and rising sea levels.
The supply, transportation, and distribution chain infrastructure will likely become more vulnerable to disruption due to climate change.
Shipping, which accounts for around 80% of world trade, could have negative consequences, for example, through more frequent port closings due to extreme events.
More importantly, climate change is likely to reduce the productivity of all factors of production (i.e., labor, capital, and land).
Ultimately leading to production losses and a decline in the volume of world trade.
At the same time, the possible further opening of Arctic shipping routes could also have positive economic effects on shipping, albeit at the expense of environmental degradation.
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How can policymakers optimally combine trade and environment policies?
Effective environmental policies and institutional frameworks are required at regional, local, national, and international levels.
The impact of trade liberalization on a country’s well-being depends on whether the country has an appropriate environmental policy.
A stringent environmental policy is compatible with an open trade regime. It creates markets for environmental goods that can then be exported to countries that follow environmental standards – the so-called first-mover advantage.
Countries have undertaken several environmental efforts under the World Trade Organization (WTO) framework.
Including negotiating tariff cuts on environmental goods and services.
Increasing clarity on the relationship between existing WTO rules and specific trade commitments in multilateral environmental agreements, and disciplines on fisheries subsidies.
In this way, the WTO creates a multilateral framework for international trade that prevents any misguided temptation to engage in a “race to the bottom.”
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