The European Union is currently negotiating - or re-negotiating - a number of trade agreements, including economic partnerships, free trade and association agreements, with countries or regional bodies such as Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) and soon Mexico, Australia and New Zealand. At a time when the “protection” of Europeans is a promise made in political manifestos on all sides, and when the economic, social and environmental impacts of globalisation are giving rise to major protest movements, questions are emerging on the desirability, meaning and even the usefulness of such agreements.

Since the creation of the World Trade Organization in 1995, global trade has grown in volume by around 167%. At the same time, the issue of sustainable development has become more significant. In light of recent controversies, at both state and civil society levels, the following questions can be raised: can we pursue a “sustainable development agenda” while developing trade in goods and services around the world and lowering tariff and non-tariff protection? If so, can we envisage pursuing a policy of bilateral trade openness accompanied by provisions to prevent abuse?

These questions, beyond the ongoing diplomatic debates (particularly around the EU-Mercosur agreement), encourage consideration of how to ensure the sustainability of trade agreements, as well as to analyse whether and how the EU, through trade with its partners, fulfils its sustainability commitments.

To address this stumbling block at the crossroads of all sustainable development issues, IDDRI invites you to a seminar on Tuesday 19th November, from 12:30pm to 2pm, at Reid Hall, Columbia Global Centers, 4 rue de Chevreuse, 75006, Paris.


  • Sébastien Jean, Director of the Centre for Prospective Studies and International Information (CEPII), Economist specializing in international trade
  • Mathilde Dupré, Co-Director of the Veblen Institute, responsible for trade issues
  • San Bilal, Head of Programme Trade, Investment and Finance at the European Center for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), specializing in structural transformation dynamics in Africa and trade relations between Africa and Europe.

The session will be chaired by Yann Laurans, IDDRI’s Biodiversity and Ecosystems Programme Director.