Public Forum 2014 — Why trade matters to everyone
1-3 October

International trade is so pervasive in our everyday lives that its presence often goes unnoticed. Most consumers are not aware of how their chosen brand of clothes impacts the life of a textile worker in Cambodia; nor do the producers of shea butter in Ghana realize necessarily to what extent shea-based cosmetics have become such a sought-after commodity in the Western world. Producers and consumers around the world are being increasingly brought together through complex commercial linkages. But international trade is not a new concept and trade agreements are not a recent phenomenon. Why then should we focus now on how it affects our daily lives?

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This year, the Public Forum wants to tell the human story behind trade.

Out of the 71 sessions that will take place during the Public Forum 2014, many will focus on how trade can help foster growth and jobs, an issue of crucial importance given the current depressed economic environment. Sessions will examine some of the common misunderstandings about the way trade affects employment, analysing how trade can be of benefit to low-paid workers or outlining the impact of trade measures on maintaining employment levels.

Sessions will also look at the impact of trade on sustainable development — for example, how the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) contributes to job creation across the region. Another session will showcase how the trade finance community contributes to making trade and jobs a reality. Trade and jobs will also be examined through the perspective of the information and communication technology sector. Other sessions will look at the link between skills, trade and job creation and will discuss the issue of a “living wage”. Employment in China and the link between trade and investment will be the topic of other discussions.

The regional focus of this year’s forum is Africa. The Forum will discuss the economic and trade situation in Africa, how to make trade work for the poor, improving trade relations between Africa and its partners, Africa’s trade future post-2015, South-South cooperation, and trade within Africa. More specifically, sessions will look at how Africa can better integrate into global value chains and move away from solely being a supplier of raw materials. The Forum will also look into the benefit of this integration in terms of job creation and entrepreneurship in Africa.

Many sessions will discuss trade relations between Africa and the European Union and the United States. They will look at how to make trade preferences more efficient so that they result in growth and jobs, and how new trends are affecting trade and economic patterns between Africa and the rest of the world. South-South cooperation will also be under discussion. Other topics include Africa’s relations with the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), building South-South supply chains, export diversification and structural transformation, and cooperation between Africa and China. Sessions will also cover the impact of trade in services on Africa’s growth, voluntary sustainability standards, public-private partnerships and job creation, procurement policy and infrastructure development, the role of innovation and intellectual property in Africa’s development, and economic growth in least-developed countries. Some sessions will specifically look at agri-trade in Africa, a key issue for the continent.

The Forum will also focus on consumer issues. The topics for discussion include standards and “safe trade”, data protection, e-commerce, fair trade, consumer welfare, as well as health and labelling standards.

The full provisional programme is available here: