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Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE)

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

The Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE) is a group within the World Trade Organization (WTO) tasked with identifying and understanding the balance of environmental concerns against the interests of international trade.

The CTE was created as a result of the 1994 Ministerial Decision on Trade and Environment and is available to all members of the WTO. The committee engages in discussions with international governments about the impact environmental policies and international trade policies have on each other. The CTE balances these economic negotiations against WTO concerns about protecting the environment. It encourages this through the promotion of sustainability in both business and development and the goal of an open, impartial and non-discriminatory multilateral trading system.

In 2001, the CTE released the Doha Declaration, which created the landscape for current negotiations through the committee. In the declaration, the WTO mandated multilateral environmental agreements (MEA) that aim to emphasize the importance of trade and environmental policies working together to benefit each other. The CTE has also encouraged members to discuss eliminating trade barriers on environmental goods and services to create a mutually beneficial situation for trade, the environment and development. For example, all three sides would benefit from the easier sale, procurement and implementation of environmental technologies. Trade wins because products become less costly and producers can find new markets. With an increase of availability, environmental technologies can help less advantaged countries with sustainable development and stimulate innovation.

While there are no specific agreements with members that deal with the environment, the WTO notes that members are free to adopt rules to protect the environment, providing they do not enable protectionism.

This was last updated in September 2017

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