23 Sep 2016

World Trade Forum 2016 draws to a close

'Behind-the-Border Policies and Global Trade' was the theme of the World Trade Forum 2016 that took place from 23 to 24 September at the European University Institute, Florence, Italy.

The conference focused on the measurement and impacts of non-tariff measures and domestic regulation on international trade and investment and how such ‘behind-the-border’ policies are being and can be addressed in preferential trade agreements and within the WTO.

It was organised by the World Trade Institute, the Robert Schuman Centre of the European University Institute, the Trade Policy Research Network and the Centre for Economic Policy Research (London), and brought together more than 100 participants.

Speaking at the conclusion, Bernard Hoekman of the EUI thanked all the participants for an interesting set of discussions, and his team for organising the event. He said the topic had been the right one, and many pragmatic and good suggestions had been made on it over the two days. Joseph Francois of the WTI thanked his team, the EUI staff and the four sponsors: the Vargas Foundation, the International Growth Centre, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Bertelsmann Stiftung.

Welcome addresses on the first day were given by Renaud Dehousse, President of the EUI, and Brigid Laffan, Director of the Robert Schuman Centre. Mr Dehousse said it seemed not so long since trade groups were small gatherings. "I take this as evidence of the great social relevance of the problems that will be discussed at this conference," he said. Ms Laffan said the Robert Schuman Centre was committed to bringing study and practice together. As a relatively small institution, partnerships such as that with the WTI were important to help it amplify resources and reach. 

The Forum included three roundtable plenary sessions on ‘FDI, Value Chains and Behind-the-Border Policies’, ‘Prospects for Further Trade Integration: Lessons from Brexit, TTIP and WTO’, and 'Global Trade Policy: State of Play and Prospects'.

In addition, participants were able to choose between a number of parallel sessions, addressing topics such as ‘The G20 and Trade/Investment Policy’, ‘Regulatory Conflict and Cooperation’, ‘Managing Regulatory Divergence’ and ‘Services Trade and Investment Policies’.

Speakers included Arancha Gonzalez, Executive Director, ITC, Anabel Gonzalez of the World Bank, Ricardo Cortés-Monroy of Nestlé and Joakim Reiter, Deputy Secretary-General UNCTAD.

The World Trade Forum is an annual event launched in 1999 and co-organised by the World Trade Institute each September. It brings together leading academic scholars from around the world, trade policy practitioners and senior officials from governments and international organisations, as well as representatives of the business community and civil society, to discuss international trade and investment policy developments, medium-term trends, and recent and ongoing policy research project activities and results.

Last year’s Forum took place in Bern and focused on ‘20 Years of the World Trade Organization’.

A book based on the proceedings is planned as part of the World Trade Forum series published by Cambridge University Press.