TREND analytics


Exploring data stories on trade and the environment.

By Dr. Clara Brandi, a senior researcher and project leader of Klimalog, German Development Institute (DIE).

Negotiations of trade agreements like the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) have recently been the subject of heated debate. While the interplay between trade and the environment is becoming increasingly controversial, we lack a deep understanding of the evolution and variance of environmental provisions in trade agreements across themes, periods of times, and regions.

To fill this gap, Prof. Jean-Frédéric Morin developed the Trend & Environment Database (TREND) by coding thousands of pages of legal texts based on a codebook with detailed coding instructions. Gathering the data was a huge effort – every agreement was coded in parallel by two different coders in order to ensure the data’s. Covering 280 different types of environmental clauses in 688 different trade agreements, TREND is by far the most comprehensive and reliable dataset on this matter.

To explore and visualise this database, a user-friendly online tool was developed by the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) and its partner, the Canada Research Chair in International Political Economy: TRENDanalytics.info.

Get an insight into environmental dimensions of trade agreements within minutes!

Using the interactive world map of TREND analytics, journalists, and others, can get an overview of the number of environmental provisions by country, in any chosen period, within a click. Interpreting the map is simple: the greener a country bubble, the more environment-related provisions the country has signed per trade agreement. The size of the bubble indicates the total number of environment-related provisions the respective country has included in all its trade agreements.

Image: Explore the number of environmental provisions by country and period by using the interactive world map. 

TREND analytics is unique as it offers users not only a birds’ eye image of the uptake of environmental provisions. It also offers various ways of zooming into the abundant diversity of environmental content in preferential trade agreements – at the level of specific agreements like TPP and CETA, at the country-level and at the level of individual environmental provisions.

Did you know that 85 per cent of all free trade agreements contain clauses that address the environment? 

In fact, we recently concluded that agreements contain over 60 different environmental provisions, for example, commitments to implement national environmental legislation and ratify international environmental accords, as well as clauses on climate change mitigation, sustainable fishing methods and securing greater participation by civil society actors in environmental policy processes.

Image: From 1996 to 2016, the European Union and its predecessors have signed 94 trade agreements with contain a total of 2005 environmental provisions.

With TREND analytics, you can look behind the headlines of the heated trade policy debate and it becomes apparent that new trade deals contain a whole range of regulations that go beyond the dismantling of trade barriers and the characterisation of environmental provisions as concealed protectionism. The increasing diversity of these provisions indicates the opposite!

Image: Explore each trade agreement and zoom into the details. For example, TPP contains 115 environmental provisions and covers 8 categories. Explore the different categories in the adjacent pie chart!

Too often simplistic views characterise the debate about the interplay between trade and the environment. For example, the TPP was simultaneously celebrated for being the “greenest” trade agreement to have ever been concluded and condemned for being an ecological disaster hidden under a “green” cover. In order to move beyond such oversimplifications, we need to improve our understanding of the intertwined relationship between trade and environmental rules embedded in modern trade agreements.

Image: Gain a deeper understanding on the different environmental provisions, e.g. climate change adaptation, one of the CETA´s provisions. Find out about it formulation and its use in other trade agreements!

Zooming in on two recently negotiated agreements, CETA and TPP, shows that both include innovative environmental content: the TPP, which is currently being negotiated by 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, despite the withdrawal of the US, is the first signed trade agreement to favor the elimination of subsidies that contribute to overfishing. CETA, which has just entered into force, is the very first trade agreement to state that water in its natural state is not a product or merchandise and that, consequently, trade obligations do not apply to water

While CETA and TPP are two trade agreements with a high number of environmental clauses, they are not as “green” as they could be. TREND analytics reveals that a number of environmental clauses, which can be found in other trade agreements, do not appear in CETA and TPP, for example provisions on mercury emissions or organic food certifications.

Overall, TREND analytics reveals that environmental provisions are more than simply a trade policy fig leaf. Consequently, already established environmental provisions should be used in future trade accords in order to increase coherence between trade and environmental protection.

Journalists can contribute to this important endeavor by increasing the transparency and the diffusion of environmental dimensions of trade agreements. TREND analytics provides a reliable source of information on the different types of environmental provisions negotiated in trade agreements around the world, helping journalists and other users to navigate the variety of environmental obligations in the growing number of overlapping trade agreements.

About the author

Dr. Clara Brandi is a senior researcher and project leader of Klimalog at the German Development Institute (DIE) in Bonn. 

The German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) is one of the leading think tanks for global development and international cooperation worldwide. Its Klimalog projects - supported by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) - aims to better connect global climate and development policy with national political and economic realities. It does so by promoting awareness for interlinkages between climate and development policy, and furthering a goal-oriented dialogue between pertinent actors in politics, academia, civil society and the private sector.

Explore TREND analytics here.