• Description

This study looks at and evaluates the European Union's Sustainability Impact Assessments (SIAs) carried out in the framework of trade negotiations involving the EU. SIAs are a tool used by the Directorate-General for Trade (DG Trade) of the European Commission (EC) with the objective to assess the potential economic, social and environmental impacts of a future trade agreement, inform the negotiations and shape the final agreement accordingly.

The first SIA was conducted for multilateral trade negotiations when at the turn of the millennium the World Trade Organization (WTO) wanted to expand its trade regime. Over the two following decades, the EU perpetuated the use of SIAs for its bilateral trade agreements and institutionalised it so as to become, in the words of the Commission, a "key instrument for the formulation of sound, transparent and evidence-based trade policies". At the time of writing, 31 SIAs have been completed and four are being conducted.

This study is based on a review of the most recent SIAs, academic literature and interviews with civil society actors involved in SIAs. It aims to establish the state of play of the EU's use of SIAs more than 20 years after they were first implemented. It gives insight into both the way SIAs are made and the role they play in the making of trade agreements.