It was an early start for day one of the WTO Public Forum, hosted at their headquarters which is located right next to Lake Léman. Arriving there in the morning I was at first a little confused about where I was supposed to be going, but soon found my way to the main hall where the daily plenary session was held. The forum officially began with a discussion between some highly distinguished guests, such as Michael Froman, the United States Trade Representative, Roberto Azevedo, Director General of the WTO and Alexander Stubb, Minister of European Affairs and Foreign Trade for Finland. The panel these people were on (which included other trade experts from a variety of backgrounds) had some amazing insights into the future of trade and the relevant policies governing it. They discussed the most pressing issues and newest ideas in the trade world, which included:
- What does market access mean when trade is intangible i.e. through (online) services?
- How should trade in services between economies be regulated, and is the WTO able in its present form to actually fulfil its function of enforcing the rules?
- Understanding that a significant proportion of new global wealth creation will be directly or indirectly attributable to the digitization of information and its subsequent commercialization.
The afternoon session for each day (of which there were two) were more flexible, with attendees being able to select which smaller workshops and/or working groups they wanted to attend. Topics for these ranged from “How can trade policy be adapted to global value chains?” to “Climate related standards and the green economy: opportunities and challenges for developing countries in South East Asia and East Africa”.
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