The Role of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) in Achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Author Name TAKAGI Seiji (Consulting Fellow, RIETI)
Creation Date/NO. February 2024 24-J-006
Research Project Restructuring the international trade law system based on sustainability
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This paper analyzes the contributions of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) using three major FTAs of which Japan is a member as case studies. The analysis focuses on the current state of contributions and explores the potential for further contributions in the future.

Although the 17 goals and 169 targets of SDGs have limited direct linkages to international trade issues, considering the broader context of negotiations related to SDGs, the contribution of FTAs, with their primary goal of trade liberalization, can be considered substantial.

Upon analyzing the specific content of the three FTAs—CPTPP, Japan-EU EPA, and RCEP, it is evident that all the three FTAs include many provisions that contribute to SDGs. CPTPP and Japan-EU EPA include provisions in new, broader areas such as the environment, labor, and transparency, contributing to SDGs. While RCEP has relatively limited provisions in new areas compared to the other two FTAs, it has strengthened provisions in such areas as special consideration for developing countries and cooperation. Thus, in the existing agreements, contributions to SDGs are observed across a wide range of fields.

The expansion of existing FTA memberships, improvements in content, and the establishment of new FTAs could potentially enhance contributions to SDGs in the future. Moreover, contributions to SDGs through economic agreements that do not involve trade liberalization can also continue to expand. The regulations within FTAs that contribute to SDGs often include less legally binding provisions and many provisions on cooperation. The extent and evaluation of contributions in these provisions are likely to be determined through practical implementation in the future.