CEPS Task Force

Corporate and Commodity Standards

Implications for Sustainable Trade and Development


Changes in consumer attitudes in the EU and other developed countries are having a major impact on the organization of commodities’ trade and global production systems. Demands on corporate practices, including environmental and labor conditions, are affecting global trade and supply systems. Similarly, EU food safety crises in the past decade, as well as the resistance against genetically altered products, have caused a tightening of process and product standards for EU food imports and supply systems, including demands for traceability and tighter SPS standards. These standards have been imposed both by public authorities and by private companies, and are having a major impact on trade and on domestic and international supply chains.

Compliance with relevant standards – whether in the area of fisheries and forest management, energy efficiency, human health and safety, hazardous waste management or labor standards – has then become synonymous in the global marketplace with the adoption of the principles of sustainable trade and development.

Both trade law and trade policy under the WTO place a high reliance on promoting the harmonization of standards as a way of reducing or eliminating market access barriers. The EU also uses standards to improve the effectiveness of important Community policies on consumer welfare, environmental protection and the Single market. As part of its “New Approach” and “European Standardization”, the Commission adopted on February 2007 a new internal market package for goods as part of its single market regulatory policy which aims inter alia to contribute to sustainable trade.

At present, it is difficult to define sustainable trade and where it fits within the broader sustainable development agenda. CEPS task force can therefore contribute to a (better) insight into the linkages between standards, corporate responsibility and sustainable trade and development.

The CEPS Task Force focused on several questions related to the issues raised by these developments, including:

  • How important are these developments in the global trade and supply chains?
  • Which is the impact of these developments for poverty elimination and development in general and for EU markets?
  • Which are the implications for international trade and the organization of global supply systems?
  • How should the EU policy makers address the involved challenges?

A CEPS task force ideally brings together members of the policy community (including representatives of member states, other national delegations, and the EU institutions (Commission, Council and Parliament) business and civil society groups, academics and other researchers and professionals.

Chair: Corrado Pirzio-Biroli, Former Head of Cabinet of Commissioner on Agriculture Franz Fischler

Rapporteur: Jo Swinnen, CEPS Senior Fellow; Director of LICOS, KU Leuven

1st meeting: 18 February 2008 agenda


Johan F.M. Swinnen