WTO deputy director-general calls for greater efforts on ‘trade for peace’

WTO headquarters Geneva. (Keystone/Salvatore Di Nolfi)

The World Trade Organization (WTO) deputy director-general last week called for greater cooperation between trade and humanitarian communities on “trade for peace” efforts in helping to bring stability to conflict-hit nations. 

In remarks made during the inaugural Trade for Peace week, Alan Wolff stressed the need “to deepen understanding” of trade as an instrument for inclusive and sustainable peace.

“There is much more that the trade and peace communities can and must do together,” he said, adding that by doing so, they could pave the way for making the trading system more “humane and fit for purpose”.

Wolf outlined different proposals that emerged from the week-long event, which took place virtually and comprised 10 sessions hosted by 59 panelists from 32 organisations and 15 countries.

Potential future actions include:

  • Developing a white paper on trade and peace, based on inputs from experts and practitioners from the trade, peace and humanitarian communities.

  • Launching a platform - a working group or a commission, for example - that brings together experts and negotiators from the trade and peace communities on a regular basis.

  • Establishing a Trade for Peace Network, with all organisations and individuals associated with the Trade for Peace Week.

  • Developing training materials and modules to equip trade practitioners and peace builders on using trade and economic integration as an instrument to promote peace on the ground.

Behind the WTO’s “trade for peace” initiative. Launched in December 2017 at the 11th WTO ministerial conference in Buenos Aires, the “trade for peace” initiative aims at helping fragile countries through the organisation’s so-called “accession process” - the procedure for becoming a WTO member.

There are 23 countries in the process of joining the organisation and nearly half of them are considered as “fragile and conflict affected” (FCA) according to the World Bank's definition.

“The ‘trade for peace through WTO accessions’ initiative is essentially a partnership between the trade, humanitarian and peace communities to assist those fragile and conflict-affected countries in re-building institutions and economies that can serve as a foundation for a lasting peace,”  Wolff said at the opening session.

Over the last two years, the organisation has organised several activities involving the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform, the g7+ Secretariat (an association of fragile and conflict-affected states), the Institute for Economics and Peace, the ILO and the World Bank - as well private sector players such as Nespresso.

Among the sessions held during Trade for Week was a discussion organised by the UN Technology Bank on the role of tech in trade for peace and exploring the challenges in starting up a business or non-profit organization in fragile and conflict affected countries. In another session, hosted by the International Labour Organization (ILO), delegates discussed jobs creation in fragile settings.