4 Jul 2017

From fragmentation to coherence – 12 years on

The NCCR Trade Regulation hosted by the World Trade Institute comes to an end this year. The review panel visited the WTI on 26 June to make a final assessment of the project’s achievements over the past 12 years.

After internal discussion of the NCCR final report, the panel heard a presentation from the NCCR directors and work package leaders, in which they talked about the key lessons learned, their findings and their experience of interdisciplinary collaboration.

This was followed by a status report by NCCR Director Manfred Elsig, who said the project’s main achievement was in strengthening the research domain in Switzerland. Its scientific output over the 12-year period comprised 1,131 publications, including books, reports and articles, as well as 686 presentations at congresses.

In particular, the NCCR helped further establish international economic law as a field of legal study in Switzerland, Professor Elsig said. In terms of political science research, it enabled a small group of scholars to work closely together and prepare the ground for political science research on trade to make a greater impact. Finally, the NCCR helped strengthen the role of economics at the WTI and expand cooperation among trade economists in Switzerland, he said.

In the long-term the project’s contribution to research was in training a new generation of scholars exposed to disciplinary approaches to tackling important societal questions, such as the increasing politicisation of trade and investment, the rise of populism and anti-globalisation movements.

Research network

In terms of structural achievements, the NCCR has helped establish the WTI as a leading centre of excellence in the area of trade governance, Prof. Elsig said. It has enabled the creation of a research network covering law, economics and political science, and comprising top scholars in Switzerland and abroad. It has helped the WTI integrate into the University of Bern and collaborate more with other university centres.

The WTI’s sustainability has been increased with the creation of three professor positions, and three disciplines brought together under one roof. New educational programmes have been launched over the 12 years, notably the Doctoral School. Finally, the WTI now manages a large number of data-set projects.

The project has ensured knowledge transfer through building relationships with other NCCRs at the University of Bern, involvement in new research efforts and outreach, targeting top-level publications, involvement in workshops and an annual book series with Cambridge University Press. Additionally, NCCR researchers have been commissioned to draw up expert studies and participate in parliamentary enquiries.

Professor Elsig’s report was followed by a presentation by Professor Dr Daniel Candinas, Vice-Rector Research at the University of Bern, who outlined the importance of NCCRs for the University, and gave an overview of its financial contribution to the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) project. He concluded by saying that discussions were underway between the University of Bern Board and the WTI on shaping the next four years of the institute. But the WTI’s long-term future was ensured, Prof. Candinas said.

Professor Dominique Foray, Chair of the review panel, concluded by praising the consolidation of the three disciplines of law, economics and political science as the major success of the NCCR Trade Regulation. He said as a result the WTI was now a strong asset of the University of Bern.

Prof. Foray thanked Thomas Cottier for his vision in setting up the project, the University for its commitment, the SNSF for its funding and the other members of the panel for their work.

The other members of the review panel are: Prof. Regina Aebi-Müller (Deputy Chair), Prof. Keith E. Maskus, Prof. John S. Odell, Prof. Roberta Piermartini, Prof. Andrew Lang, Prof. Debra Steger, Prof. Christian Tietje, Prof. Gregory Shaffer and Prof. Geertrui van Overwalle.

The NCCR ends officially with the World Trade Forum in Grindelwald on 6-7 October 2017.