The E15 Initiative: An overview
The multilateral trading system is facing a number of critical challenges. The rise of emerging powers, deadlocks in the Doha negotiations, the proliferation of regional agreements, continuous global warming, mounting hunger as a result of unsustainable food supply patterns, natural resource scarcity, and fundamental changes in the conduct of services and manufacturing trade are all having an impact on the way the World Trade Organization (WTO) operates and on trade-supported development strategies.
Addressing these global challenges – most of which were not in the minds of governments when they launched the Doha Round in 2001 – requires new responses from the multilateral trading system.
Following an inception meeting organised with the support of the Kingdom of the Netherlands at the margin of the eighth WTO Ministerial Conference in 2011, the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) launched the E15 Initiative – a multi-stakeholder dialogue process aimed at identifying a set of policy options in response to these emerging issues.
The expert groups
The E15 Initiative involves a series of 15 expert groups, made up of 20 to 25 top thinkers and practitioners, each focusing on a set of critical challenges. During the first phase, discussions addressed the following topics:
- Expert Group 1: Agriculture trade, food security and sustainable development
- Expert Group 2: Global value chains: development challenges and policy options
- Expert Group 3: Regional trade agreements: development challenges and policy options
- Expert Group 4: Functioning of the WTO
- Expert Group 5: Clean energy technologies and the trade system
- Expert Group 6: Trade and innovation
Phase II discussions, currently in progress, focus on the following topics:
- Expert group 7: Reinvigorating manufacturing – new industrial policy and the trade system
- Expert group 8: Measures to address climate change and the trade system
- Expert group 9: Oceans, fisheries and the trade system
- Expert group 10: Trade in services
- Expert group 11: Natural resources and energy
- Expert group 12: Investment and competition policy and the trade system
- Expert group 13: Trade, finance and development
- Expert group 14: Data and the digital economy
- Expert group 15: Global trade architecture
The expert groups are tasked with developing a set of “policy options” for the multilateral trading system. Throughout the process, they are in contact with WTO officials and member countries in order to maintain awareness of particular concerns at the multilateral level and to keep policymakers informed about the groups’ activities and objectives.
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), Chatham House, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES), and the Evian Group@IMD.
The E15 Initiative is a four-year process designed to deliver a set of key outcomes at critical junctures. The initial six expert groups created during Phase I used the WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali as an opportunity to present early findings and engage WTO members and the wider trade and development community. As part of Phase II, nine more expert groups are advancing their work in the critical post-Bali environment and by mid-2014 will convene a multi-stakeholder dialogue that delivers synthetic outcomes on a post Bali-agenda. Finally, in Phase III the Initiative will provide blue-sky thinking and options for the multilateral trading system at 2025 to carry into the WTO’s tenth ministerial conference (MC10) and celebrations of the WTO’s twentieth anniversary in 2015.