Good afternoon.

It is my great pleasure to be part of the launch of the Research and Knowledge Hub of the Trade for Peace Programme. It is great to see the participation of experts from a plethora of international organizations in today's meeting. Special thanks to those who are joining us very late at night from Australia.

Since this is my first opportunity to engage with the Trade for Peace Network, let me introduce myself.  I was appointed as Deputy Director-General by WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala a few weeks ago. One of the portfolios which I oversee is Accessions, including Trade for Peace, along with development-related issues. Accession and Trade for Peace are close to my heart as former negotiator of China's WTO accession and as senior trade official where I have seen the power of trade in transforming economies and people's livelihoods in different parts of the world. 

I strongly believe that integration into the global economy through WTO membership can provide a pathway to economic development, peace and prosperity.  For the purpose of today's meeting, since I also served as the Director of Trade Policy Research for three years, I have a soft spot for research work and great respect and admiration for researchers. Therefore, I am so pleased to be part of this group.

Trade for peace programme: state of play

Under the leadership of my friend and colleague, my predecessor DDG Alan Wolff, with the support of the Accessions Division, the Trade for Peace Programme has brought together the trade, peace and humanitarian communities and hosted a range of events during the last three years. Most recently, just before Alan's departure, the Trade for Peace Network was launched on 25 March and many of you attended its first meeting. The establishment of the Network has been critical in translating the vision of the Trade for Peace Programme into concrete actions, in partnership with you all, who can bring different knowledge, expertise, perspectives, constituencies, networks and resources to make a difference on the ground.   

The purpose of my intervention today is to provide the state of play on the Trade for Peace Programme since the March Network meeting, which was attended by over 70 participants.  

Let me start by recalling what Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said in launching the Trade for Peace Network:

“Trade can help to break the vicious cycles of fragility, conflict and poverty. Trade can raise people's incomes and build interdependence between communities and countries, contributing to shared prosperity and progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Under her leadership, which is derived from her experiences as a development economist who led the World Bank's work on “low-income countries under stress”, now known as “fragile and conflict-affected” countries, the Trade for Peace Programme is benefitting from a new vision in defining the WTO's contributions to peace and stability.

Since the launch of the Network, the implementation of the Trade for Peace Programme has been based on the four pillars contained in the White Paper, whose outline was also shared with partners. Let me recall the four pillars which are: (i) political engagement and institutional partnerships; (ii) outreach and dialogue; (iii) research; and (iv) training and capacity building.

During and after the Network meeting, we have received valuable inputs and contributions from many of you on the White Paper — both in written and oral comments.  On behalf of the Secretariat team, I would like to thank you for your inputs as they can only enhance the quality of the White Paper.  We are now in the process of developing a full White Paper, taking account of your inputs.  Furthermore, in elaborating the vision, rationale, principles and approach of the Trade for Peace Programme, we are also conscious of the need to align the paper with the SDG framework.

Following the launch, we have implemented a number of activities under all four pillars. Under Pillar 1 (Political Engagement and Institutional Partnership), the Secretariat has held a number of productive meetings with organisations within the trade, peace and humanitarian communities, building on earlier contacts or new contacts.  These included, inter alia, the g7+ WTO Accessions Group, the Graduate Institute, the International Committee on Red Cross (ICRC), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the United Nations Office of the Special Advisor on Africa (OSAA), the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Under Pillar 2 (Outreach and Dialogue), we have engaged in several activities alongside partners to expand the reach and depth of the discussion on trade and peace. You may recall that we launched the Trade for Peace Podcast in March. Hosted by Mr. Axel Addy, former Minister of Commerce and Industry and Chief Negotiator for WTO accession of Liberia, the Podcast has featured trade for peace champions around the world, including policy makers and the voices from the ground in fragile and conflict affected countries. So far, eight episodes have been aired, including with senior policy makers, such as former WTO Director-General, Mr Pascal Lamy, former Prime Minister of Montenegro, Dr Igor Lukšić, ITC's Executive Director, Ms Pamela Coke-Hamilton and the Secretary General of the ICC, Mr John Denton.

The Trade for Peace visions expressed by these high-level speakers are enriched by the voices from the ground, including the young entrepreneurs from Afghanistan, Iraq and next week from Yemen. Their stories of using trade as a tool to bring positive changes to people's everyday lives in the fragile context are truly inspiring and give hopes for the goals of the Trade for Peace Programme.    

To give you a secret heads-up, in upcoming episodes, the Trade for Peace Podcast will welcome more high-level guests, including the former President of Liberia, H.E. Ms Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Mr José Manuel Barroso, former Prime Minister of Portugal and former President of the European Commission. Please stay tuned and we hope that you will have an opportunity to tune into these episodes.

On the dialogue side of Pillar 2, we are hosting a side event during the 2021 UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, in two days, on Thursday 8 July.  The event is entitled “Trade for Peace: Addressing Fragility Through Economic Integration and Shared Prosperity: The Case of WTO membership for Liberia and Afghanistan”. I have the honour of moderating the event and hosting the ministers of Liberia and Afghanistan, two countries that joined the WTO five years ago.  Their accession journeys, which were not easy, not only gave the idea of Trade for Peace, but also inspired other fragile and conflict-affected countries, such as South Sudan, Somalia and Timor-Leste to start the Trade for Peace journey in recent years. I should add that we are organising a similar anniversary event in Geneva later in the month.

Research pillar

Today's meeting is focused on the third pillar: research. This pillar is of critical importance for the Trade for Peace Programme going forward, especially at a time when the WTO is led by an economist, who always asks for empirical evidence and numbers! Thus, I welcome very much the establishment of the Research and Knowledge Hub and its members, which will be driving the research agenda for the Trade for Peace Programme.    

This is not to say that there has been no research done on the relationship between trade and peace.  Indeed, extensive research already exists, including in the academia, thanks to the work done by many of you at this meeting. I should mention that during the Trade for Peace Week held last December, we had a session on empirical evidence on “Trade, Conflict and Peace” with four experts who discussed the relationship between trade openness, international trade, and international and intra-national (i.e. civil) conflict.(1)

We also had Episode 5 of the Trade for Peace Podcast on “Perspectives from Academia” with Dr. Patrick Low, former WTO Chief Economist and Dr. Achim Wennmann, Director of Strategic Development and Partnerships at the Graduate Institute and former Executive Coordinator of the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform.(1) I believe that their episode has nicely set out issues for our conversation today. I am very pleased to have Patrick and Achim and his colleagues from the Graduate Institute, participating in this meeting today.

The value of today's gathering is to have experts and practitioners who have worked directly or have interests in understanding the relationship between trade and peace.  Despite the overall positive linkages which many of us believe, they are not always straightforward, and indeed, one of our goals is to ensure positive outcomes by taking holistic approach in our engagement, bringing together those with different backgrounds and expertise. On the WTO side, we have three divisions represented in this meeting — Accessions, Economic Research and Knowledge Management.

Trade cannot flourish in the presence of conflict, which can affect the availability of resources and result in the destruction of infrastructure and means of production, security risks, and food scarcity, among other factors. I am sure that we all together can contribute to better understanding in establishing positive Trade and Peace outcomes.

In this regard, I would like to express my special thanks to the Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP) for sharing their work on the Global Peace Index today. Mr. David Hammond, Research Director of the IEP is joining us from Sydney, despite late hours there. I was honoured to be part of the launch of the 2021 Report two weeks ago, and I believe that IEP's long-standing research work on the economic effects of conflict and peace can provide important inputs to our debate today.

For the sake of completeness, let me briefly say a few words on Pillar 4 of the Trade for Peace Programme which is capacity building and training. I see the strong linkage between research and capacity building & training. Since the goal of Pillar 4 is to foster mutual learning and experience sharing among trade experts and peace practitioners, a greater understanding on the interaction dynamics between trade and peace, which will be explored in the research pillar, can lay out a solid ground for us to initiate training and capacity building activities. This adds even more importance to the work that will be initiated today in the Research and Knowledge Hub.  


Let me conclude by saying that the Trade for Peace Programme, which is a relatively new initiative in the WTO, has gained support and interests from the international community. The vision of the Programme reflects the needs and interests of WTO members and those wanting to join the multilateral trading system and use it to improve the livelihoods of their people. On behalf of the Director-General, the WTO is delighted by and grateful for all the support we have received from our partners.    

Your involvement in the Research and Knowledge Hub today is a clear indication of your strong commitment to share resources, information, and expertise to achieve the goal of the Trade for Peace Programme.  It is our hope that the Hub will act as a central coordinating unit to gather, share and disseminate knowledge, information and research on the trade-peace nexus. It is an open platform.  We also look forward to hearing your ideas and inputs on how to operationalise this platform for the benefits of all partners who are present here today. I welcome your involvement in the Hub this afternoon and thank you all for your continuous participation in the Trade for Peace Programme.


  1. During the Trade for Peace Week, Session 4 “Trade, Conflict and Peace: Empirical Evidence”, organised by the WTO Economic Research and Statistics Division, had four panellists (i) Ms. Michelle Garfinkel, Professor of Economics, University of California-Irvine; (ii) Ms. Anke Hoeffler, Professor of Political Science, University of Konstanz; (iii) Mr. Serge Stroobants, Director, Europe & MENA region, Institute for Economics and Peace; and (iv) Mr. Mathias Thoenig, Professor of Economics, Faculty of Business and Economics, University of Lausanne. The session dissected the conventional idea that larger trade flows automatically lead to more peaceful relations, highlighting the importance of the geographical structure of trade, the balance between bilateral and multilateral openness, the structure of comparative advantage, and trade costs in the relationship between trade, peace and conflict. This session underlined the importance of including geopolitical issues and concerns in trade policies and reflected the significance of empirical research to help trade and peace practitioners formulate evidence-based policies. back to text
  2. In this episode, Patrick and Achim argue that although there is a discernible relationship between trade and peace, determining the causal directions can be challenging. On the one hand, it can be argued that new markets and economic opportunities arising from reforms could be realised by the cessation of conflict and thus trade could contribute to the maintenance of the newfound peace. On the other hand, while the revenues generated from trade could make people and societies better-off, they could also be used to finance conflict, if placed in the wrong hands. back to text




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