One can hardly imagine a world without trade or at least certain forms of exchange. The volume and intensity of trade, often long-distance, lies at the core of our growth-based societies. The so called free trade agreements (such as the TTIP or TTIP) pushed forward by certain governments and corporate lobby groups or the striving for creation of new forms of and spaces for trading (e.g. in carbon or biodiversity offsets) are notable examples here. As the understanding and intensity of trade today is far from degrowth imaginaries, this may lead to a problematic conclusion that trade itself is incompatible with degrowth. Critics would then see degrowth as archaic, calling back to pre-modern living conditions and not addressing the complexities and interdependencies present in our world. Or, any attempts for sustainable degrowth might seem futile even by its proponents in the face of challenges posed by trade. This paper offers a conceptual exploration of (in)compatibilities between trade and degrowth. First, we will provide an overview of what is most traded today. Second, a historical analysis of international trade theories and their (in)compatibilities with degrowth will be conducted. This will include tracing since when trade has become tightly linked to economic growth. Third, on the basis of this overview, we will articulate the kind of trade that would be in line with sustainable degrowth. This will include outlining which areas should be excluded from trade and where other forms of exchange would be preferable.
This media entry was a contribution to the special session „'Made in China'“ at the 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest in 2016.