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Experts launch bid to strengthen global trade at Davos

DAVOS-KLOSTERS, Switzerland – The World Economic Forum and International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development today released a sweeping set of proposed reforms to international trade and inve

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DAVOS-KLOSTERS, Switzerland – The World Economic Forum and International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development today released a sweeping set of proposed reforms to international trade and investment rules and institutions.

The new report outlines a pathway for better aligning and eventually reintegrating the world’s “spaghetti bowl” of regional free trade and investment agreements, as well as for adapting rules and institutions to recent changes in the world economy, such as global value chains, the digital economy, services, climate change, Sustainable Development Goals, etc.

The report of the E15 Initiative, Strengthening the Global Trade and Investment System in the 21st Century, takes a long-term, systemic perspective. It makes proposals for the evolution of not only trade law and institutions but also trade-related aspects of international development, financial, environmental, agricultural, labour and technological cooperation over the next decade to 2025. The report also proposes a series of structural improvements to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The new proposals come on the heels of the WTO ministerial in Nairobi in December 2015, where governments failed to reach agreement on a continuation of the Doha Round of trade negotiations in its current configuration, effectively suspending a process that had been deadlocked for over a decade. That outcome has left the international community without a shared vision and with growing concerns about a system that is fragmenting and facing fundamental questions of legitimacy and effectiveness.

For over two years, the World Economic Forum and the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development facilitated an extraordinary multistakeholder and multidisciplinary process that engaged 375 experts from around the world in 15 Expert Groups and three cross-cutting Task Forces, in partnership with 16 other institutions. The process has yielded a comprehensive set of proposals that have been summarized in a synthesis report prepared by the two convening organizations and detailed in accompanying thematic papers.

Richard Samans, Member of the Managing Board, World Economic Forum, said: “The E15 findings and recommendations are encouraging. They demonstrate that just because the world was not able to agree to the particular multilateral agenda on the table in the Doha Round does not mean that a common undertaking that leaves every major constituency and region better off is not possible. But the path forward only comes into view if one steps back from a specific focus on the formal trade policy machinery of the WTO and appreciates the much wider ecosystem of institutions and instruments available to influence trade and investment behaviour in a positive direction.”

Ricardo Meléndez-Ortiz, Chief Executive Officer of the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development, said: “The E15 proposals respond to changes in the global trade and investment system and provide concrete principles and measures to ensure that governance in this area advances sustainable development.”

The E15 Initiative proposals include sets of measures that would support progress on many of the international community’s paramount shared priorities, including:

• Boosting global growth and employment

• Reducing commercial friction and investment uncertainty

• Accelerating sustainable development in least-developed countries

• Increasing economic diversification and competitiveness in middle-income countries

• Ensuring food security

• Combating climate change and environmental degradation

• Preserving national policy space to make societal choices

• Strengthening the legitimacy of the global trading system

Details are summarized in the attached synthesis report executive summary. Experts Groups and Task Forces were convened in the areas of: Agriculture and Food Security; Clean Energy and Technologies; Climate Change; Competition Policy; Digital Economy; Extractive Industries; Finance and Development; Fisheries and Oceans; Functioning of the WTO; Global Value Chains; Reinvigorating Manufacturing; Innovation; Investment Policy; Regional and Plurilateral Agreements; Regulatory System Coherence; Services; and Subsidies.

The process will continue in 2016-2017 in a worldwide dialogue on the implications of this blueprint on how trade strategy is set and administered in countries, as well as globally, including how improvements in international cooperative architecture could help.

E15 Knowledge Partners include the International Food and Agricultural Trade Policy Council (IPC); the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB); the World Trade Institute (WTI); the Evian Group@IMD; Chatham House; the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES); Sweden’s National Board of Trade; the National School of Development, Peking University; International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD); Climate Strategies; the Graduate Institute, Geneva; Bruegel; the European University Institute; Center for International Development at Harvard University; and the Southern Voice on Post-MDG International Development Goals.

Over 2,500 leaders from business, government, international organizations, civil society, academia, media and the arts will participate in the 46th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, on 20-23 January. Under the theme, Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the programme comprises over 250 sessions, of which over 100 will be webcast live.

eTurboNews (eTN) is a media partner for World Economic Forum.

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Linda Hohnholz

Editor in chief for eTurboNews based in the eTN HQ.

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