The Green Trade Network

In early 2022, IEEP created the Green Trade Network, a group of experts from over 20 European research organisations, ranging from think tanks to NGOs and academia, conducting evidence-based research and outreach activities on the trade and environment nexus. On this page you will find information on the network's activities as well as the editorial from its latest newsletter. Don't hesitate to subscribe!

GTN member organisations are based in 9 EU Member States, but also in the United States of America, United Kingdom and Switzerland. The aim of the GTN is to collectively promote a European agenda for a better alignment of trade policies and trade-impacting measures with key environmental and climate objectives.


September 2022 newsletter editorial

Advancing green trade in a polarised world: What exactly are like-minded countries? 

You are reading the 4th edition of the Green Trade Network's newsletter coordinated by IEEP, gathering in one place information and key happenings in the world of green trade.

To a bit of commotion, we launched our Twitter last week. Follow us @GreenTradeNet for more frequent updates, news and information.

The days of trade policy being perceived as a technical matter seem long gone. Once guided by basic neoliberal prescriptions, trade instruments are used as a vehicle to address a growing range of non-commercial issues. In her State of the Union address, Ursula von der Leyen made this approach abundantly clear, saying “New partnerships will advance not only our vital interests – but also our values.”

President von der Leyen reiterated her commitment to progress on FTAs with “like-minded countries”. Josep Borrell suggested last week that deals with Chile and Mexico may be ratified by the end of the year. Furthermore, the EU-NZ FTA has already been esteemed as the gold standard for addressing sustainability in trade. Although much remains to be discussed with Australia, it is hoped that an agreement will be reached by the end of the year. Negotiations with India would certainly take more time, but it is still on the agenda of the current Commission. On a visit to Indonesia, Commissioner Dombrovskis called for strengthening ties with Jakarta: "It's time to give a big political push to our bilateral agenda, including FTA Talks."

The EU approach reflects a polarised vision of foreign relations, and the notion of “like-minded countries” is most significant to the countries it aims to exclude. The Russian crisis played an obvious role in exacerbating antagonisms, but the divide seems to be widening. Allegations of forced labour in China prompted the United States to restrict import from Xinjiang, and the EU followed up by presenting a forced labour market ban with a similar intent.

More generally, the expanding scope of trade discussions and persisting differences among states are limiting the potential for consensus. Last week, the G20 trade ministers meeting in Bali ended without a joint statement, as the participants could not agree on a common text. While diplomacy strives to allow discussion between different and even non-friendly countries, autonomous measures fill the gap: they have become a central tool in advancing the EU trade agenda and are being processed at breakneck speeds. Trilogue discussions are imminent for regulations on deforestation-free commodities (27/09) and CBAM (04/10, 08/10), and the directive on corporate sustainability due diligence is expected to be complete by 2024.

It remains questionable, however, whether reliance on so-called "like-minded" countries can actually produce a viable foreign policy. In the context of shifting divides, the very notion of like-minded countries is elusive, and potentially misleading. The U.S. Inflation Reduction Act gave us a telling example. This Act claims to lower GHG emissions and protect workers, which resonates with EU efforts in that regard. On the other hand, the bill takes some liberties with WTO agreements and the country’s long-standing stance on protectionism. Even among like-minded partners, this measure appears just as difficult to accept as to challenge. In a world of concerted unilateralism, even secondary issues may become contingent on tedious negotiations. While the EU remains committed to the multilateral trading system, it appears that flexibility and pragmatism will be needed more than ever in defending European values and interests.



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Previous Newsletters

Tuesday, 12 July 2022
Adjusting Ambitions: MC12 outcomes, new EU TSD Action Plan, CBAM vs Climate Club

Thursday, 2 June 2022
"Trade-Tangos": Friend-shoring and the implications of building an assertive EU trade agenda 

Wednesday, 23 March 2022
Thinking Sustainable Trade policies in troubled times 

Latest publications by the Green Trade Network

Monday, 7 March 2022
Summary for decision-makers: Four guiding principles for CBAM design and implementation

The French Presidency of the Council announced that reaching an agreement on CBAM will be one of its top priorities. As discussions have intensified both in the European Parliament and between Member States, the Green Trade Network issues this Summary for EU decision-makers highlighting four mutually reinforcing essential principles to be respected to deliver on a robust, effective and ambitious CBAM.