The Role Of Trade In The Implementation Of Sustainable Development Goals

Since the Rio Conference in 1992, trade was identified as a means for promoting sustainable development. Agenda 21 states “… moreover, improved market access for developing countries’ exports, in conjunction with sound macroeconomic and environmental policies, would have a positive environmental impact and therefore make an important contribution towards sustainable development.”
Essentially, this means that environment and trade policies must be mutually supportive to achieve sustainable development.
Trade has been identified as one of the key areas where partnerships need to be strengthened in order to make progress in achieving relevant targets under the SDGs. Means of implementation such as finance, capacity building and environmentally sound technologies can assist countries with progress towards achieving sustainable development. Similarly, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) notes that trade is expected to catalyse inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction, and contribute to the promotion of sustainable development.
The Addis Ababa Action Agenda of 2015 further supports the linkage between trade and sustainable development by stating that “sustainable development will be integrated into trade policy at all levels.” The Action Agenda also reiterates the vulnerabilities of small island developing states (SIDS) and confirms strong support towards their engagement in trade and economic agreements and fuller integration into regional and world markets. It can then be asked: How can the linkage between trade and sustainable development contribute to OECS Member States’ efforts to achieve the SDGs? Cognizant of the particular vulnerabilities of SIDS, including not being able to mass produce, this may need a new approach for the OECS Region’s policy-making, that encourages trade growth, as a contributor to economic growth and increases how the three pillars of sustainable development—economic, environmental and social—are interconnected.
UNCTAD in 2016 noted that the focus on trade policy needs to shift from a quantitative to a qualitative one, not centred on how much to trade, but on how to trade. As well, market access which forms part of a country’s trade policy, does not only make trade equitable and mutually advantageous, but can influence consumer welfare and country’s economic viability.
Implementing qualitative approaches and approaches that improve market access are vital since they can ultimately contribute to increased investment that can enhance production. Increased export earnings can consequently help upgrade technology required to produce higher levels of added value to goods and services and boost productivity.
In the 2030 Sustainable Development era, this advantageous interaction between trade and investment should therefore help to transform economies by creating jobs, promoting decent work and economic growth, developing skills, building resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialisation, fostering innovation, ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns and reducing inequality in and among countries which are directly linked to SDGs 8, 9 and 10 and 12.
Moreover, SDG 17 calls for key partnerships in areas including trade as one of the key means of implementation that needs to be strengthened to revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development. Achieving these goals will also contribute to achieving SDG 1 – ending poverty and SDG 2 – ending hunger, as their associated targets are viewed as highly integrated.
People, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership are at the core of the new agenda for global action towards sustainable development.
In the new regime, at the macro level, trade policies in the OECS Region therefore need to tackle poverty, seek to maximise the potential of regional trade and integration, and strengthen trade in services. In addition, inputs such as investments in industry and resilient infrastructure should result in outputs such as innovation and industry that can contribute to reducing the region’s reliance on imports.
All things considered, innovation and niche marketing may provide the answers to addressing our challenges and particular vulnerabilities to help the region pursue sustainable development.