Global Economics: Trade, Investment and Development

Bernard Hoeckman profile picture


Prof Bernard Hoekman

Distributional effects of greater economic integration; modern patterns of servicification and digitalisation; the need to revitalise the WTO… These are some of issues that motivate the research team in the Global Economics research area. The focus is on policy-relevant analysis of questions that are salient from a sustainable development perspective and where better global governance is part of the solution. 

In an increasingly multi-polar world economy, this research area aims to contribute to a better understanding of the need for – and design of – multilateral economic cooperation and global governance of national economic policies for sustainable development. The focus of research projects is primarily on international trade, investment and economic development questions and the operation of global institutions such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the G20, as well as important transnational and regional cooperation initiatives such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Major research areas and themes include:

  • Challenges confronting the global trade order. Working with scholars and research institutes in both developed and emerging economies, since 2013 a number of projects have been undertaken that centre on the operation of the WTO, focusing on both its negotiation and its dispute settlement functions. This line of research continues to be a core area of activity, and includes analyses of the impacts of regional and preferential trade agreements; issues related to the pursuit of ‘clubs’ or plurilateral agreements on trade and investment policy matters within and outside the WTO; the operation of the WTO dispute settlement system – including a multiyear effort involving an annual law and economics workshop analysing all the disputes addressed in the most recent year; and the role of the G20 in trade and investment policy matters.
  • Regulation, standards and market integration – what role for trade agreements? Starting in 2015, the research team has engaged in analysis of the international spillover effects of national regulatory policies, incentives for regulators to cooperate, and actions that have been (could be) taken to reduce the negative effects of differences in regulatory regimes on trade and investment. This research includes analysis of how policies impact on the operation of supply chains and international production networks, and is motivated in part by the question how different forms of regulatory cooperation between states impact on non-participating nations, especially developing countries. Work in this area includes empirical analysis of voluntary (private) sustainability standards; the internationalisation of public procurement regulation; and the effects of subsidies. An over-arching question is to better understand the effects of regulatory regimes – public and private – and the role trade and investment agreements can play in supporting welfare-enhancing regulatory cooperation.
  • Services and sustainable development. Another research theme concerns the role of services and ‘servicification’ in economic development and growth. The focus of analysis includes empirical assessments of the relationship between the productivity of services firms and overall economic performance, and the role of services in structural transformation in developing countries.
  • Governance and the impacts of trade and investment policies. A stylised fact established in the economic development literature is that institutions are critical for sustained growth in per capita incomes over time. Research here centres on identifying how the impacts of trade and investment barriers depend on the quality of governance in a country, with a focus on analysing whether and how sector-specific policies play a role in determining the effects of trade and investment barriers.

Team & Research Fellows





Torino World Affairs Institute South African Institute of International Affairs World Trade Institute  International Trade CentreBertelsmann Stiftung UNCTAD