Strengthening the global trade system

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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. An effective global trade system is crucial to enabling a robust world economy and addressing 21st century challenges, yet the system – well performing as it is on many of its functions – is out of date.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, jointly implemented by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) and the World Economic Forum (WEF), engages nine world-class institutions and over 200 experts from academia, practitioners, business, and former policy makers, in defining the ideas, strategies and scenarios for how the global trade system can meet the challenges and demands of the world economy and sustainable development today and in 2025.

E15 experts are divided into 15 thematic groups, as well as three task forces addressing key horizontal issues across the groups. These groups will deliver a set of options for the global 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.

As part of the E15Initiative, scenarios on the future of trade may be carried out. The aim of these scenarios will be to provide different contexts within which policy options on the future global trade system can be designed and tested so as to increase their effectiveness. In developing these scenarios, experts, decision makers and other stakeholders will be widely engaged in a rich strategic dialogue to create a shared understanding about scenarios for trade and their implications.

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 Geneva-based ambassadors and trade policy makers to the WTO at strategic roundtable dialogues organised in collaboration with Geneva’s Graduate Institute and 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.

A Steering Board consisting of Jonathan Fried, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Canada to the WTO; Paul Polman, Chief Executive Officer, Unilever; Nils Smedegaard Andersen, Group Chief Executive Officer, A.P. Møller-Maersk A/S; Mark Weinberger, Global Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, EY; former President Ernesto Zedillo, now Director, Yale Centre for the Study of Globalization; Richard Samans, Managing Director and Member of the Managing Board, World Economic Forum; and, Ricardo Meléndez-Ortiz, ICTSD Chief Executive, provides overall strategic advice and guidance, reviews progress and makes recommendations for future evolution. The E15 is jointly implemented by ICTSD and the World Economic Forum through a joint project team including Marie Chamay, E15 Senior Manager at ICTSD, and Sean Doherty, Director for International Trade & Investment at the World Economic Forum.

To date, E15 Knowledge Partners include 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; the National School of Development, Peking University; International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD); and Climate Strategies. As knowledge partners and co-conveners, these organisations co-manage the work under the expert groups and provide deep expertise on thematic issues.

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


With the support of

And ICTSD’s Core and Thematic Donors: