Social and Environmental Standards in Trade Agreements

This project focuses on the extent to which public opinion on trade agreements is sensitive to environmental and social standards in general, and with respect to types of country. It further addresses the question whether empirical findings in this respect differ across countries with different income levels and political systems.

One very interesting feature of trade agreements over the past decade or two is that many of them involve controversies about environmental and social standards. There is a very lively, ongoing debate in the WTO on greening the global trading system, and many regional trade agreements and PTAs now include provisions pertaining to environmental and social standards. Some governments are even bound by national legislation to screen any new trade agreement for its environmental and social implications. Assuming that policy-makers pay at least some attention to their citizens’ views and preferences, we should expect that these trends at the macro-political level reflect micro-level conditions where individuals consider environmental and social standards when evaluating trade policy.


Our research should shed light on how citizens in different countries and different social contexts evaluate the role of environmental and social standards in PTAs. One very interesting argument to test is that although individuals with strong environmental and social concerns might be less likely to support free trade, PTAs could be a preferred alternative, depending on the content of the agreement.

related links

© earthobservatory.nasa.gov