As part of a coherent foreign policy, sustainable development is a key element in free trade agreements. The aim is to negotiate agreements that are compatible with sustainable development in Switzerland and its partner countries, to promote sustainable trade and to prevent environmental and social dumping.
Sustainable development in free trade agreements
As part of a coherent economic policy, Switzerland aims to sign agreements that enable sustainable growth in Switzerland and its partner countries. To help achieving this objective, Switzerland is committed to including specific provisions governing the social and environmental aspects of trade whenever it negotiates new or updates existing free trade agreements (FTAs).
These provisions apply to all sectors covered by the FTAs, including agri-food production, and reflect the commitments made by the countries working towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These establish a common framework that parties undertake to observe in their preferential trade arrangements so that the economic objectives of the FTAs align with the parties’ aims in terms of protecting the environment and workers’ rights.
Switzerland and its fellow EFTA members drew up the first model chapter on trade and sustainable development for FTAs in 2010. This model chapter was revised between 2017 and 2020, both in terms of its content, adding new provisions on specific issues, and at institutional level, strengthening the dispute resolution mechanism.
Since 2010, Switzerland and the other EFTA States systematically include provisions on trade and sustainable development (TSD) in their FTAs. A respective chapter has been included in EFTA’s FTAs with Montenegro (signed in 2011), Bosnia and Herzegovina (2013), the Central American States (2013), Georgia (2016), the Philippines (2016), Ecuador (2018), Indonesia (2018) and Mercosur (concluded in substance but not yet signed). The EFTA-Hong Kong China FTA (2011) and the bilateral FTA between Switzerland and China (2013) include chapters on trade and environment, while side agreements on trade and labour have been concluded in parallel. A TSD chapter has also been added as part of a comprehensive review of the FTA with Turkey (2018) and to the existing FTAs with Albania (2015) and Serbia (2015).