Research Projects

Current projects

Research is a main strand of the WTI's work. See below for a list of research projects the institute is involved in.

SECO / WTI Academic Cooperation Project

The SECO/WTI Academic Cooperation Project is a comprehensive six year academic capacity building project aimed at academic training in trade regulation and building regional research capacities. It was initiated and is funded by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and the World Trade Institute (WTI) is its implementing agency.

NCCR International Trade Regulation

From Fragmentation to Coherence
NCCR Trade Regulation aims to clarify how the world trading system functions and to explore the drivers of fragmentation and coherence. It aims to offer policy recommendations based on the disciplines of law, economics and political science through its six thematic research areas: trade governance; new preferentialism in trade; innovation and creativity in international trade; trade, development and migration; trade and climate change; and impact assessment in international trade regulation.


DESTA is a collaborative research project. It aims to collect systematic data on the design of preferential trade agreements that have been signed since 1945.

Project directors:
Manfred Elsig
Andreas Dür (University of Salzburg)
Leonardo Baccini (LSE)
Karolina Milewicz (Oxford University)



A collaborative research project on regulatory barriers to trade, supported by the European Commission.

PRONTO aims to build a network across the research and stakeholder communities working on a better understanding of non-tariff measures affecting international trade and investment. The project is managed by the WTI.



BRICS Globalisation and Labour Protections

The recent incorporation of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) in the world economy, and their rapid rise as a major source of foreign investment has important and uncertain implications for labour protections in advanced and emerging economies. This project investigates under what conditions BRICS trade and foreign direct investment (FDI) enhances (or undermines) worker rights and conditions and labour market institutions, with a particular focus on European countries and the BRICS themselves. It articulates different levels of analysis (macro, meso and micro), analyses both the ‘demand’ and ‘supply’ side of the politics of BRICS globalisation, and uses a mix of quantitative and qualitative research methods. 

The project is funded by the SNSF with a personal grant to Damian Raess (SNSF Professorship) for the period 2017–2020.

Project leader: Damian Raess
Team: Wanlin Ren, Patrick Wagner

Common Concern

Towards a Principle of Common Concern in Global Law: Foundations and Case Studies
The project explores the legal potential of the emerging doctrine of Common Concern of Humankind (‘Common Concern’) in responding to collective action problems due to the lack of appropriate institutions on the global and the European levels.
It consists of a theoretical part and a series of in-depth case studies exploring the potential of the principle in different areas of public international law. The four case studies envisaged will analyse existing governance arrangements in the fields of: climate change; biodiversity, with a particular focus on the law of the sea; monetary affairs, and corporate responsibility and human rights.
Funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) the project runs for three years from October 2015.

Project leader: Thomas Cottier
Team: Lucia Satragno, Zaker Ahmad, Judith Wehrli, Iryna Bogdanova, Alexander Beyleveld

SNIS project

Diffusion of International Law: A Textual Analysis of International Investment Agreements
This collaborative project begun in 2015 examines the question, 'What are the design, evolution and effects of the international investment agreements currently in practice?'

Led by the WTI, it involves universities in Switzerland and abroad as well as the World Bank Group.

WTI project leader: Manfred Elsig
Co-leaders: Eddy Bekkers, Rodrigo Polanco
Team: Wolfgang Alschner, Valentino Desilvestro and Azernoosh Bazrafkan

Climate Security with Local Authorities (CLISEL)

CLISEL is a coordination and support action (CSA) funded under the Horizon 2020 Programme, which is exploring the climate-security nexus from the perspective of local administrations and communities.

CLISEL proposes an innovative approach to the question of how Europe can be secured from the impacts of climate change in third countries. The aim is to understand the extent to which migrants are perceived as a security issue, as well as the policies and actions through which local administrators can ward off the emergence of a security crisis within their territory, with a special focus on the Italian region of Sardinia, taken as a pilot case study.

The 36-month project, which started in May 2016, involves five institutions from around Europe, including the World Trade Institute (WTI). CLISEL is mainly involved in accompanying measures like dissemination, networking, coordination or support activities, policy dialogues and mutual learning exercises and studies in different countries.

WTI scientific coordinator: Elisa Fornalè
WTI team members: Federica Cristani, Francesco De Fino and Susan Kaplan

r4d - Research for Development

Employment Effects of Different Development Policy Instruments
As its name suggests, the project aims to reveal the impact of various development policy instruments on the quality and quantity of employment in six developing countries: Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, South Africa and Vietnam. Analytically, the policy instruments studied are related to three key mechanisms that usually facilitate development: integration in international markets, technological upgrading, labour market restructuring.

Towards food sustainability: Reshaping the coexistence of different food systems in South America and Africa
The aim of the project is to provide evidence-based scientific knowledge as a basis for the formulation and promotion of innovative strategies and policy options that will improve the sustainability of food systems. Food policies must go beyond maximising global food productivity to optimise the complex interactions between food production, environmental impacts, and social justice outcomes.
This project addresses a major research gap by looking not only at the performance of individual food systems, but also identifying conditions and factors that make the coexistence of food systems more sustainable.
The project operates in Kenya and Bolivia. It is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and runs for six years from January 2015.

The R4D Food Sustainability project has been recognised as a partner of the Sustainable Food Systems Programme of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Project leader: Stephan Rist
Leader of Work Package 1: Elisabeth Bürgi Bonanomi (CDE/WTI); Christophe Golay (Geneva Academy)
WTI team: Elisabeth Bürgi Bonanomi; Christiane Erkoreka-Fürst (2015-16); Stephen Gelb (2015)