Research is a main strand of the WTI's work. See below for a list of research projects arranged under the three main thematic areas of trade, investment and sustainability, as well as information on past projects.
Trade and Democracy (TRADEM)
The project’s main objective is to develop new and test existing arguments related to the types of outside-in effects through trade agreements that lead to positive or negative effects for various types of democracy parameters. We aim to study the conditions under which treaties are democracy-enhancing and compare these to conditions that are democracy-hindering. Providing better data and exploring and testing more nuanced causal relationships will help policy-makers better understand the observable democratization effects of trade agreements.
WTI project leader: Manfred Elsig
Team: Kirthana Ganeson, Andrew Lugg, Marine Roux
Global Value Chains and Provisions in PTAs
The project builds on the existing Design of Trade Agreements dataset and uses inputs from the EDIT dataset on bilateral investment treaties (see below) and the Big Data project. It codes over 180 variables on areas such as GVCs, investment, market access for goods and services e-commerce and data flows in over 600 PTAs. The project partner is the OECD.
Project leader: Manfred Elsig
Research coordinator: Rodrigo Polanco, Jenny Surbeck
Research assistants: Julina Canga, Martina Pons, Livia Tomas, Selina Hauser
RESPECT - Realising Europe's soft power in external cooperation and trade
Respect is an EC Horizon 2020 project spanning 2018 to 2021. The WTI is a work package leader and the team is focused on quantifying the non-trade policy objectives of EC trade agreements and the extent to which these objectives have been realised in practice.
WTI project leader: Joseph Francois
Coordinator: Miriam Manchin
Researchers: Lisa Lechner, Hugo Rojas-Romagosa, Achim Vogt, Patrick Tomberger
Complexity - Complexity and the structure and regulation of trade and investment
The main objective of the project is to better understand the interaction between the geographic disintegration of production (the emergence of international production networks) on the one hand, and changes in the institutional architecture governing related trade and investment flows since the early 1990s. It is funded by the SNSF with a grant for the period 2017-2021.
WTI project leader: Joseph Francois
Team: Valentino Desilvestro, Patrick Tomberger
Heterogeneity - Regulatory heterogeneity in international trade: from measures to systems
The main objective of the project is to gain a better understanding of the impact of bilateral regulatory heterogeneity on international trade flows and policy making. The project is funded by the SNSF for the period 2018-2022.
WTI project leader: Joseph Francois
Team: Irene Garcés Iriarte, Achim Vogt, Karima Tawfik
PROSPER - Politics of Rule-making, Orchestration of Standards and Private Economic Regulations
PROSPER is a 2-year project funded by the European Commission under the European Union Horizon2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie individual fellowship programme. The project is run by Aydin Yildirim and hosted by the WTI and Manfred Elsig. The main objective of the project is to examine the role of multinational companies (MNCs) and their value chains across trade networks. It seeks to understand how and under which conditions MNCs can influence rules and standards in the global trade regime.
WTI project leader: Aydin Yildirim
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 for the period 2017–2020.
Project leader: Damian Raess
Team members: Wanlin Ren, Patrick Wagner
Project website: https://bricsglobalization.weebly.com/
The Electronic Database of Investment Treaties (EDIT), is a new systematic and comprehensive database on international investment agreements, including available texts in one single language (English) and format (XML). During the implementation of the SNIS-funded project “Diffusion of International Law: A Textual Analysis of International Investment Agreements” (2015–2017), treaty texts were collected, digitised and non-English texts translated through machine translation software. Articles and paragraphs of the agreements were categorised using different techniques (automated labelling and based on a keyword dictionary, as well as on manual annotation).
WTI project leader: Manfred Elsig
Co-leader: Rodrigo Polanco
Team: Valentino Desilvestro, Azernoosh Bazrafkan
Partners: Wolfgang Alschner, University of Ottawa; Dmitriy Skougarevskiy, European University, St Petersburg; World Bank
Project website: https://edit.wti.org/document/ttt/search
NRP 73 - Switzerland’s Sustainability Footprint: Economic and Legal Challenges
The project focuses on a number of complex, contemporary policy problems and tackles these using an interdisciplinary approach. The research team will develop new measures of sustainability footprints for the Swiss economy, extend the literature on the effectiveness of alternative tax-based and voluntary instruments in meeting sustainability targets, and address treaty-based constraints on the use of alternative instruments. Funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, the project runs for four years from 2017.
Project leader: Joseph Francois
Team members: Eddy Bekkers, Octavio Fernandez, Doris Oberdaberning, Ilaria Espa, Patrick Tomberger, Brigitta Imeli
Framing Environmental Degradation, Human Mobility and Human Development as a Matter of Common Concern (CLI_M_CO2)
Our growing exposure to catastrophic natural disasters worldwide has paved the way for an increased awareness of the effects of environmental changes. The project aims to go one step further, and inquire about the often overlooked consequence of environmental degradation: human mobility. CLI_M_CO2 aims to approach environmental migration from a fresh perspective, regarding the issue as a 'common concern of humankind'. The project involves a case study in the South Pacific region that focuses on the 'sinking islands' in order to propose a novel approach to migration governance and state responsibility. Funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), the project runs for four years from 2017.
Project leader: Elisa Fornalé
Team members: Aylin Yildiz, Najma Rehouma
Project website: www.climco2.org
The Governance of Big Data in Trade Agreements: Design, Diffusion and Implications (2017-2020)
This research project is part of the National Research Programme (NRP) 75 Big Data. It brings together a small interdisciplinary research team, which will, in cooperation with the University of Lucerne, and under the leadership of Mira Burri, examine the pertinent trade rules that impinge on Big Data. The 3-year project started in May 2017 and seeks to achieve not only cutting-edge basic research results but also to have palpable policy impact.
Big Data website.
Common Concern (2015 - 2019)
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. The project is set to conclude in June 2019 and a book containing the research outcomes is planned to be published the same year.
CLISEL - Climate Security with local authorities (2016 - 2019)
CLISEL is a coordination and support action (CSA) funded under the Horizon 2020 Programme, which explores the climate-security nexus from the perspective of local administrations and communities. CLISEL proposed 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.
CLISEL project website.
NCCR Trade Regulation (2005 - 2017)
The project aimed 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.
An off-shoot of the NCCR, the Design of Trade Agreements collaborative research project collected systematic data on the design of preferential trade agreements signed since 1945. More information can be found on the DESTA website.
The SECO/WTI Academic Cooperation Project was a comprehensive six-year capacity building project aimed at academic training in trade regulation and building regional research capacities. It was initiated and funded by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and the World Trade Institute was its implementing agency.
Diffusion of International Law: A Textual Analysis of International Investment Agreements
This collaborative project examined the question, 'What are the design, evolution and effects of the international investment agreements currently in practice?' Led by the WTI, it involved universities in Switzerland and abroad as well as the World Bank Group.
The aim of this project that ran from 2014 to 2017 was 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.
For a full list of r4d working papers and policy briefs, visit our r4d publications archive. The r4d brochure can be found here.
PRONTO - Productivity, non-tariff barriers and openness
A collaborative research project on regulatory barriers to trade, supported by the European Commission, PRONTO aimed 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 first phase ended in 2017. The second phase involves cooperation with UN agencies. Partial funding was provided through the SNSF. More information can be found on the project website.