Convergence and Divergence: Multilateral Trade and Climate Agendas

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If the international community wants to make meaningful progress ahead of the 2030 deadline—which critics argue is still too late to avert global catastrophe—major global players should work together to reduce emissions at home and abroad. This paper discusses the politics of climate policy in the United States and how it is influenced by relationships with the European Union and China. It analyzes these international relationships through specific policies, namely subsidies, and assesses their reduction or removal in some cases and their reallocations in others. It also evaluates the politics and policy implications of carbon border adjustments, including their compliance with existing WTO rules. These trade policies allude to domestic industrial policies and how they can be adjusted to better combat climate change while complying with existing trade rules. In outlining policy options for the United States’ trade agenda, including how the European Union and China factor into these options, the paper assesses the probability that certain climate policies will ultimately materialize. The paper argues that unilateralism is insufficient and counterproductive in both trade and climate and that only through multilateral, legally compliant policy convergence can countries stave off environmental and economic collapse.

This is the second paper in a series of two that looks at the politics at the intersection of trade and climate. The first paper can be viewed here.

This report is made possible by generous support from the European Climate Foundation.

Emily Benson
Director, Project on Trade and Technology and Senior Fellow, Scholl Chair in International Business