The Trade for Peace Network aims at providing a platform for regular exchange between policymakers and experts from the trade, peace and humanitarian communities so that they can explore the nexus between the multilateral trading system, peace and security. It will also explore areas of collaboration between members of the network to support FCA states in achieving stability and prosperity through WTO accession. Moreover, it will establish an agenda and roadmap for the Trade for Peace initiative. This could include partnership engagement, public dialogue and outreach, collaborative research, and training and capacity building.
In a video message addressed to participants in the inaugural meeting, WTO Director-General Okonjo-Iweala said: “At its core, the WTO accession process is about institution building on the pillars of non-discrimination, transparency and the rule of law. The economic reforms acceding countries implement contribute to stabilizing trade flows and disincentivizing conflict. Three and a half years ago, a number of conflict-affected and fragile countries came together to work on helping fragile countries accede to the WTO. They need your support.”
The DG continued: “The launch of the Trade for Peace Network is timely. As the economic fallout from the pandemic has helped to highlight, while all countries are interdependent some are much more fragile than others. The Trade for Peace Programme recalls the ethos of the Marrakesh Agreement that the WTO is about people. We must focus on delivering for people in fragile and conflict affected countries. We must reverse and prevent the further breakdown of stability. Members of the new Trade for Peace Network have an important part to play. Your expertise and collaboration are required to enrich the research, enhance coordinated efforts and achieve real, tangible, and effective change.”
In his last official engagement as WTO Deputy Director-General, Alan Wolff called for coordinated action on Trade for Peace: “In recent years, the world has been witnessing increasing trends of violent conflicts which have resulted in the biggest displacement crisis ever recorded, rising inequality, discrimination and exclusion. If we do not take coordinated action, all the gains we have made in our fight against poverty can be nullified.”
DDG Wolff expressed optimism about the future of the Trade for Peace initiative: “With the establishment of the Trade for Peace Network and the support from all of you, I feel that this programme is now ready to set off to the next chapter of its journey. While I will leave my official position as WTO Deputy Director-General, I look forward to following from Washington the next phase of the programme which I see has the enormous potential to make a difference in multilateral cooperation.” See his full speech here.
Axel Addy, former Minister of Commerce and Industry and Chief Negotiator for the WTO Accession of Liberia, highlighted that using WTO membership to promote peace led to the Trade for Peace initiative, launched in 2017 at the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires and the creation of the g7+ WTO Accessions Group. Since then, a wider set of acceding governments are seeking to use their WTO membership as a path to transition from fragility to stability.
“What we have witnessed during the last three years is that there is a growing sense of community, not only among a group of WTO members and observers but also among supporters and believers beyond the immediate trade community; those who look to the WTO to play a greater role in supporting fragile and conflict-affected countries, using trade as a stabilizer to promote inclusive and sustainable peace,” Mr Addy said.
As the host of the newly launched Trade for Peace Podcast, Mr Addy said this tool “provides one critical channel of exchanges that takes the WTO and its partners' high level policy decisions and agreements to the people where it matters most, and through shared stories, elevates the relevance of trade in fostering peace in our capitals.”
The Trade for Peace Podcast was officially launched on 3 March 2021. It is produced on a bi-monthly basis in the format of a 30-minute interview, with guests providing their perspectives on the linkage between peace and trade, particularly through WTO membership. The two episodes produced so far are available here. They can be downloaded through the major podcast platforms.
Currently, the WTO has 164 members and 23 countries are in the process of joining the organization. Over a half of acceding governments are least developed countries (LDCs) and/or fragile and conflict-affected (FCA) states. Several FCA-LDCs are also among the most recently acceded WTO members.
A number of outreach events have been conducted under the Trade for Peace initiative to examine the linkages between the multilateral trading system, peace and security. The most recent event organised by the WTO was the first edition of the Trade for Peace Week in December 2020, which concluded with a set of recommendations to transform the initiative into a Trade for Peace Programme by expanding the network, enhancing its content and exploring collaborative actions and activities among relevant stakeholders.