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30 May 2022    Policy briefs
Espa, Ilaria , Imeli, Brigitta


Policy brief: Switzerland-based private sustainability standards and WTO law

This policy brief is based on the document Switzerland-based private sustainability standards and WTO law, WTI Working Paper No. 02/2022 by Ilaria Espa and Brigitta Imeli.

There are substantial sectoral differences in the number and design of Switzerland-based private sustainability standards. Their level of exposure to World Trade Organization (WTO) scrutiny also greatly differs depending on whether and to which extent the standards exhibit a nexus with state measures that restrict foreign competition in the Swiss market.

Trade law concerns arise in the sectors of agriculture and cosmetics: the majority of Switzerland-based private sustainability standards in place exclude foreign products from certification. Their trade-restrictive effect is amplified as major retailers source key product lines from certified products. In cases where the discriminating private behaviour is related to state measures, the government’s responsibility cannot be excluded under WTO rules.

Policy brief: Switzerland-based private sustainability standards and WTO law