Davos 2016: Proposals for Strengthening the Global Trade and Investment System

Alicia Nicholls

A new report by the E15 Initiative entitled “Strengthening the Global Trade and Investment System in the 21st Century” was launched at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting 2016 held January 20-23 in Davos, Switzerland. The new report proposes a set of reforms with the aim of strengthening the global trade and investment system in the 21st century. Small vulnerable economies (SVEs) like those in the Caribbean stand to benefit from many of the proposals if endorsed by the international community.

According to details on the website of the E15 Initiative, the E15 Initiative report is a product of the E15 Initiative  jointly undertaken by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) and the World Economic Forum, in conjunction with 16 partnering institutions and 375 international experts over the past two years.

The E15 Initiative report is timely as it comes at a time of slowing global trade. Global trade is now growing at less than the rate of global GDP, which is not the norm, and last year the WTO revised downward its global trade growth projections for this year. The report also comes on the heels of the failure of WTO members at the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi, Kenya in December to agree on the continuation of the Doha Development Agenda, as well as in the midst of an ever-growing “spaghetti bowl” of regional trade agreements, which includes the recently concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and several other mega-regional trade agreements currently under negotiation.

The E15 Initiative report has 16 chapters of practical recommendations organised in thematic groups. The reforms proposed are not limited to the WTO’s architecture but include proposals on wider global trade and investment cooperation. As an example, in light of the concerns about fragmentation, one of the proposals is for the establishment of a Regional Trade Agreement Exchange. The report is accompanied by a Synthesis Report which “summarizes and interprets the significance of the proposals for progress on many of the international community’s most important shared imperatives”.

Proposals of Interest to the Caribbean SVEs

The report’s recommendations touch on several issues which are of particular concern to SVEs, including the availability of correspondent-banking relationships. The loss of correspondent banking due to de-risking practices by banks in metropolitan countries is an issue of significant import to Caribbean SVEs as it has implications for remittances sending/receiving and the transaction of business with the rest of the world.

Another recommendation which benefits services-based economies of the region is the proposed development of a comprehensive WTO Framework for Trade Facilitation in Services, while the proposed establishment of an Agreement on Access to Basic Science and Technology is also noteworthy. Other proposals touch on food security, fisheries subsidies and illegal unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, trade solutions to climate change, proposals on ensuring trade rules are equitable and predictable and on modernising the coherence of the investment agreements framework.

For further information on the report, please see the website of the E15 Initiative. The full E15 Initiative report may be accessed here.

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B. is a trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. The Author is in no way affiliated with the ICTSD, WEF, the E15 Initiative or the report mentioned. You can read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

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