The Board of Trade report's ambitions are too low

Posted on July 21, 2021
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Published today, the second Board of Trade report “Green Trade” sets out the economic case for green trade and argues that the UK can accelerate the global green transition by promoting free and fair green trade.

Ruth Bergan, Senior Adviser, Trade Justice Movement said:

On trade and climate change:

“We welcome that the new Board of Trade report brings the trade agenda closer to the discussions about climate change and nature loss. The climate and biodiversity crises need action in all areas, and to date the trade agenda has been a missing piece. We need fresh thinking about the intersection between trade and climate change.

“The report correctly highlights the importance of a global green transition and the need to create high-value jobs in the low-carbon economy. However the focus of the report is primarily on the trade opportunities that the UK can access, rather than how trade can be part of a transition that ensures low carbon prosperity around the world.

“The report spends too much time looking at the impact of climate change on trade, and very little at how the trade system impacts on climate change. Not enough is said about how existing trade rules can pose unnecessary and unhelpful obstacles to achieving climate and environmental goals. The government should seize the opportunity to look at the broad impacts that trade agreements have on the environment and climate change, and take the opportunity of hosting COP26 whilst also developing new trade deals to develop world-leading deals that do trade differently.”

On fossil fuels:

“Although the UK has pledged to end government support for the fossil fuels energy sector overseas, it has yet to take action on fossil fuels in its trade negotiations. In particular, it has not faced up to the huge obstacle created by investment protections, which are being used by companies like Westmoreland, Uniper, RWE and Rockhopper to challenge government measures to phase out fossil fuels. We call on the government to exit the Energy Charter Treaty, terminate Bilateral Investment Treaties and remove all corporate court (ISDS) clauses in all trade agreements.”

On the need for reform and the UK leadership:

“We agree with the Board of Trade report's recognition of the need to reconsider how the multilateral trading system can help achieve the Paris Agreement goal. But the ambition is too low in terms of concrete actions. Promoting green trade is not enough. The UK needs to show real leadership in this pivotal year with its Presidency of the G7 and the COP26. The Government should start by publishing an overall trade strategy, setting out how new trade agreements will be fully aligned with climate commitments.

“It is welcome that the report recognises that reform is needed. It however falls short of identifying the actions that will make a real difference to the climate.

“We regret that this report was developed without engagement with stakeholders such as TJM or others in the environmental sector who have significant expertise in trade and environmental impact.”

For more information please contact Catherine Callens, Senior Communications Adviser on catherine[at]