Addressing the Impact of Protectionism on Sustainability


In late September, on the opening day of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Public Forum 2017 in Geneva, FTA served on a panel concerning “Sustainable and Inclusive Trade in Times of Rising Protectionism”, in cooperation with EuroCommerce, the China Chamber of International Commerce (CCOIC) and the International Forum on Sustainable Value Chains (ISVC).

Over 150 participants attended the session, moderated by FTA Director General Christian Ewert. He explained the impact of protectionism on sustainability policies and operations, and how it can be linked to larger illiberal political effects.

The keynote speaker was the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the World Trade Organization, H.E. Xiangchen Zhang.

The other prominent panellists included representatives from Alibaba, The World Bank Group, International Forum on Sustainable Value Chains (ISVC), and the IKEA Group.

The panel cautioned that today’s wave of protectionism and unfair practices have the potential to undo a generation’s worth of trade-based development, affecting all countries and especially emerging economies, both economically and socially.

They added that these restrictive actions may also roll back the standardising of important and leading sustainability initiatives and policies, making it costlier for businesses to meet relevant and effective sustainability criteria. This also means that companies will not be able to promote global standards if they cannot cooperate with factories in the sourcing markets.

FTA believes that the WTO, as the only global organisation dealing with the rules of trade between nations, is the best forum to ensure that trade is open, fair and sustainable.

By Milan Pajic, Trade Policy Advisor

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