World Trade Forum 2018

Trade, Development and Sustainability

On 28-29 September more than 100 trade practitioners, and scholars, government officials, and representatives of international and nongovernmental organizations participated in the 2018 World Trade Forum at the European University Institute in Florence Italy. Sessions addressed the state of play in the WTO and global trade policy trends, external trade strategies of the EU, China and the United States, links between international integration and sustainable trade, measurement of sustainability and recent trade policy research. Annually, a book related to the World Trade Forum is published with Cambridge University Press. For 2018, the book project is managed by Cosimo Beverelli (WTO), Jürgen Kurtz (EUI) and Damian Räss (WTI).

Short Video Interviews with Key Speakers (2’11”)

Photo Gallery

WTF 2018

Video Recording of Plenary Sessions 


13.30 – 13.45 Welcome

Brigid Laffan | European University Institute
Opening remarks
Joseph Francois | World Trade Institute
Bernard Hoekman | European University Institute

13.45 – 15.15 Plenary Session I – The Backlash against Globalization: Implications for (Trade) Governance

Alan Beattie | Financial Times
Brigid Laffan | European University Institute
Paola Conconi | Free University of Brussels
Caroline Freund | World Bank
Lúcio Vinhas de Souza | European Commission

17.30 – 19.00 Plenary Session II – Trade and Sustainability: Where are we? Can we get there?

Matthias Helble | Asian Development Bank Institute
Arancha González | International Trade Centre
Joseph Francois | World Trade Institute and University of Bern
Aik Hoe Lim | World Trade Organization
Gregoire Garsous | Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development


11.00 – 12.30 Plenary Session III – The WTO under threat: Is reform needed? Is it feasible? Options and scenarios

Andreas Esche | Bertelsmann Stiftung
Manfred Elsig | University of Bern and WTI
Stormy-Annika Mildner | The Federation of German Industries
Xiankun Lu | UIBE and Wuhan University
Pascal Lamy | Delors Institute

15.30 – 16.30 Plenary Session IV – Digital Trade Technologies, Services and Sustainable Development

Bernard Hoekman | European University Institute
Marion Jansen | International Trade Centre
Erik van der Marel | European Centre for International Political Economy
Matteo Fiorini | European University Institute

The multilateral trading system

The multilateral trading system is under stress. Unilateral trade restricting actions by the US and retaliatory responses are one major sources of tension. Another is the refusal by the US to agree to new appointments to the WTO Appellate Body, threatening the ability of WTO members to settle trade disputes. In May 2018 President Macron called for major trading powers to reflect on desirable WTO reforms. Underlying many trade tensions are national policies motivated by economic development objectives. How to reconcile the need for governments to be able to pursue development goals with possible adverse effects on trading partners has long been a key challenge for the global trade regime. Another key challenge is to ensure trade is sustainable.

Conference Papers

Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS), Trade and Sustainable Development, third flagship report of the United Nations Forum on Sustainable Standards 

Revitalizing Multilateral Governance at the World Trade Organization, Report of the High-Level Board of Experts on the Future of Global Trade Governance

Acceptable Trade-offs between Economic Growth and Environmental Protection, Hye-Sung Kim, Withrop University and Youngchae Leey, University of Rochester, September 2018

European Commission presents comprehensive approach for the modernisation of the World Trade Organisation, Concept Paper, European Commission, September 2018

Digital Trade Restrictiveness Index, Martina Francesca Ferracane, Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, Erik van der Marel, European Centre for International Political Economy


The Effect of Environmental Provisions in Trade Agreements on International Trade, Axel Berger, Clara Brandi, Jean-Frédéric Morin & Jakob Schwab, german Development Institute, Florence, 28 September 2018

Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS), Trade and Sustainable Development, Santiago Fernández de Córdoba, Senior Economist, UNCTAD, UNFSS Coordinator

Digital Trade Technologies, Services and Sustainable Development, Erik van der Marel, Senior Economist at ECIPE, Univesité Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) – Solvay Brussels School

Blockchain and International Trade: Preferential Utilization Rates for Exporters in Developing Countries and Implications for SDGs, Christine McDaniel, Hanna Norberg, Badri Narayanan


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