Handbook provides concrete guidelines on sustainability in trade agreements


The National Board of Trade Sweden has developed a handbook, which contains concrete guidelines on how Ecuador can work with trade and sustainable development (TSD) within the framework of their trade agreement with the EU.

– The idea is that civil servants in Ecuador can use the handbook in their work with implementation of sustainability provisions in the agreement. We hope that it will make it easier for the Trade Ministry to assume a leading role in the TSD implementation process. The handbook also helps other institutions, both public and private, understand their role in this process, and guides them on how to use the participation opportunities offered by TSD provisions in a constructive way, says Karolina Zurek, senior adviser at the National Board of Trade Sweden.

Modern trade agreements negotiated by the EU contain a specific chapter on trade and sustainable development (TSD chapter). TSD chapters aim at strengthening implementation of the parties’ existing sustainability commitments, specifically in the field of labour and environmental protection. They also establish a framework in which the parties can cooperate on sustainability issues of shared interest.

TSD chapters require a specific approach and working methods

Since TSD chapters differ significantly from other parts of free trade agreements (FTAs), they require a specific approach to implementation and monitoring. Various stakeholders, both public and private, need to be involved. Karolina Zurek has worked with implementation of TSD chapters in FTAs since 2016:

– Provisions of TSD chapters can sometimes seem rather abstract. The EU’s trade partners are often very interested in them, but have difficulties understanding how they can be put into practice. Until now, there has not been much practical guidance on TSD implementation, which is why we wanted to develop a simple tool to clarify and concretise the content of TSD provisions. The handbook gathers existing experiences and best practices, which can be used by Ecuador in their implementation process, says Karolina Zurek.

– Cooperation- and consultation procedures, which we take for granted here in Sweden, are not always equally established and integrated in administrative cultures of our trading partners. At the same time, without collaboration and inclusion of relevant stakeholders it is much more difficult to succeed with TSD implementation.  

The need for a handbook

In her report entitled Possible tools for strengthened implementation of sustainable development provisions in EU free trade agreements (FTAs) Karolina Zurek made several recommendations on how implementation of TSD chapters in EU’s trade agreements can be further improved. The report was well- received by the European Commission and EU Member States. The Commission has in fact included a number of these recommendations in their 15-point Action Plan for TSD implementation, and the development of a handbook is one of them.

The handbook was developed specifically for Ecuador because the National Board of Trade Sweden has an ongoing development cooperation project with the country.

– It really fitted into our project and we thought it would be a great opportunity to test the handbook idea in practice, says Karolina Zurek.

However, not only Ecuador has expressed interest in the handbook. Quite a few other EU’s new and future trade partner countries wish to benefit from it as well.

– We are considering a number of options here. One could develop the Ecuador handbook into a more horizontal product. Another idea would be to adapt it to the needs of other individual partner countries, says Karolina Zurek.

The handbook, which is now available in English and Spanish, was developed together with the Ministry of Production, Foreign Trade, Investment and Fisheries in Ecuador, in collaboration with the European Commission.

More information

TSD handbook. Implementation of the chapter on trade and sustainable development in the Trade Agreement between EU and Ecuador (2019)

Possible tools for strengthened implementation of sustainable development provisions in EU free trade agreements (FTAs) (2017)


Karolina Zurek
+46 8 690 49 59

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National Board of Trade, P.O. Box 6803, SE-113 86 Stockholm. 
Visiting Address: Drottninggatan 89. 
Phone: +46 8 690 48 00     Fax: +46 8 30 67 59


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