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European University Institute - Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies

Non-economic objectives and international trade - World Trade Forum 2023

National and economic security, the protection of workers, the fight against climate change and the promotion of social values: these are among the non-economic objectives that are increasingly affecting global trade and investment policies and were the focus of the 2023 edition of the World Trade Forum.

02 November 2023 | Event


On 13 and 14 October, the EUI hosted the World Trade Forum, an annual gathering co-organised with the World Trade Institute and the University of Bern. It focused on trade policies to pursue non-economic goals and on recent developments and prospects to sustain multilateral trade cooperation between rising geopolitical rivalry and existential threats.

As in previous editions, the annual conference brought together researchers and practitioners from all over the world working in the area of trade and development, with a mix of plenary panel discussions and presentations of research. Subjects included trade and democracy, addressing environmental challenges in times of geopolitical tensions, the impact of sanctions on supply chains, research on trade and development in Africa and Least Developed Countries and more.

The conference kicked off with a presentation of the book ‘Non-economic objectives, globalisation and multilateral trade cooperation’, co-authored by Petros C. Mavroidis, Douglas Nelson and Bernard Hoekman. In response, Mercedes Araoz form Universidad del Pacifico and former Acting President of Peru, pointed out that: “What we are seeing is all the unilateral policies coming from many areas. For example, the issue of due diligence and deforestation, coming from the EU, that is hurting directly our possibilities for bringing out people of poverty”.

After a number of stimulating presentations on the current state of international trade, Vera Thorstensen of Fundação Getulio Vargas, commented that “This is new: to hear geopolitics [mentioned] so often in a group of trade experts”. Beata Javocik, Chief Economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development pointed out that “the world is on a path to fragmentation. It’s risky, it’s costly, not only for the countries driving these policies, but also for bystanders - developing countries. The driver for this fragmentation is the US-China trade tension”.

Focusing on security issues, Dominique Njinkeu, African Economic Research Consortium, stated that “if these issues cannot properly be handled in the WTO, perhaps they should be handled somewhere else. The global system should have a framework for addressing security and trade issues”. Marion Jansen, Director Trade and Agriculture Directorate at the OECD, emphasised the disconnection between communities: “On the social objectives, we need to reach out to these other communities – the labour and environmental communities that work on trade. These communities are still too disconnected".

For more insights into the discussions the key panels are available online.

Last update: 02 November 2023

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