Strengthening the multilateral trading system

The world is emerging from the global financial crisis into a new era of challenge and opportunity. Global wellbeing, particularly in developing countries continues to rise steadily; but old challenges, like inequality or food security, have taken on new dimensions and new ones such as climate change or the digitalisation of the economy are becoming increasingly tangible. Moreover, the generation of growth and employment – core objectives of international trade and investment policy – seem to increasingly test and defy the fitness of the existing frameworks. An effective multilateral trade system is crucial to enabling a robust global economy and addressing 21st century challenges, yet the system – well performing as it is on many of its functions – is out of date.

The E15Initiative (E15) seeks to turn these challenges into opportunities. The initiative engages world-class institutions and experts in defining the ideas, strategies and scenarios for how the multilateral trade system can meet the challenges and demands of the global economy and sustainable development today and in 2025.

Grouped into 15 thematic issues, over 200 E15 members, foremost experts from academia, practitioners, business, and former policy makers, commit their knowledge and expertise to develop policy options and conclusions, on how the WTO could better face emerging trade and sustainable development challenges. Groups are not expected to arrive at consensus, but rather to reflect the best thinking in the field and provide all possible options.

In addition to convening world class experts, the E15Initiative provides venues for dialogue among key influencer communities to help validate ideas, align interests, and strengthen the impetus for change. Ideas from the groups are discussed with Permanent Representatives and key delegates to the WTO in a series of strategic roundtable dialogues organised in collaboration with Geneva’s Graduate Institute, led by Prof. Richard Baldwin, Director of the Centre for Trade and Economic Integration and President of the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) and with business and political stakeholders in the World Economic Forum’s regional and annual meetings in 2014 and 2015.

Such informed engagement, within and across multiple communities, ensures that ideas generated by the experts will advance in policymaking arenas, and will help shape the trade system of the coming decade.

The full project will deliver a set of options for the multilateral trade system at 2025 in time for the tenth ministerial conference of the WTO, and the 20th anniversary of the organization, towards the end of 2015.

For more information on the background of the initiative, please click here.

The initiative is jointly implemented by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) and the World Economic Forum (WEF). Co-conveners for each of the issue-specific tracks include world-class knowledge partners with deep expertise on the issues. ICTSD engages with different institutions on the various topics identified above. These partner institutions are responsible for co-managing the work under the different expert groups. To date, ICTSD has established partnerships with the International Food and Agricultural Trade Policy Council (IPC) in Washington; the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB); the World Trade Institute (WTI); the Evian Group@IMDChatham House; the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES); Sweden’s National Board of Trade; and the National School of Development, Peking University.


With the support of

And ICTSD’s Core and Thematic Donors: