Trade matters for jobs and growth The International Chamber of Commerce would like to hear more talk about why trade matters; how the gains from trade are realised; and about how concerns about trade's disruptions can best be handled Since the end of World War II, broad consensus in support of global economic integration as a force for peace and prosperity has been a pillar of the international order. Early multilateral trade agreements reduced trade barriers from high levels in the early post-war years and established global trading rules that allowed trade to flourish in the age of globalization. These broad, multilateral agreements—now overseen by the World Trade Organization—also played a central role in keeping protectionist responses to economic shocks broadly in check. In short, global and regional trade agreements, coupled with technological changes, have enabled international commerce to drive the fastest rise in global living standards at any point in history. Yet a revolt against global trade integration is under way in many of the world’s largest economies with claims abound that new trade agreements are simply tools to support big business at the expense of society as a whole. In the United States, the leading presidential candidates on the campaign trail are united in their opposition to global trade—and in particular the newly-inked Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, while in Europe there is growing public opposition to new trade deals. Meanwhile global coverage of trade liberalization in the media demonstrates a growing negative bias with the story going something like this: international trade is bad news for workers, destroys local communities and degrades our planet. Worryingly, we are seeing signs that anti-trade rhetoric is already translating into definitive policy choices. According to the Global Trade Alert initiative, 2015 saw the biggest rise in protectionist activity since the onset of the financial crisis—with world trade showing sharp drops in those sectors which have been hit hardest by trade barriers. But is it any wonder that public opinion on trade is souring in many countries around the world when it would seem that no one is speaking up for the benefits of international commerce? Yes, there is scope for positive change to enable trade to better serve the needs of families across the world. While the global trading system is by no means perfect, the time has come to stand up for the global and set the record straight on trade. Any debate on the role of trade in today’s economy must be balanced and evidence-based. So let’s hear more talk about why trade matters; how the gains from trade are realized; how trade can drive sustainable development; and about how concerns about trade’s disruptions can best be handled. Policies based on myth, hearsay or political hyperbole are best left alone. Take protectionism: sheltering industries from global competition might sound like a good idea, but evidence shows that it creates real hardship in the long-run. Trade agreements aren’t designed to support or help individual businesses, but rather to support growth and development of economies as a whole. They are, simply put, an exchange of market access between governments: a levelling of the playing field in one market in exchange for a levelling in another. In recent years a growing focus has been placed by policymakers on enabling trade for sustainable development. In 2001, governments launched the WTO’s Doha Development Agenda—talks which in 2013 yielded the landmark Trade Facilitation Agreement which it estimated could create more than 18 million jobs in developing and least-developed countries. Recent bilateral agreements—such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership—also contain important provisions to uphold labour standards and promote environmental protection. It’s important to remember trade agreements are not just about economics: they can be an important component of a country’s broader foreign policy too. The creation of the first multilateral trade framework played a critical part in restoring peaceful international relations following World War II. Today, bilateral and regional agreements give developed countries a tool to support political and economic reforms in emerging markets. In response to concerns from civil society, governments have also taken steps to enhance the transparency of trade negotiations. To take just one example: the European Commission last year outlined new steps to increase public access to documents from its on-going trade talks with third-countries. In 2016, growth in the volume of world trade is expected to remain sluggish at 2.8%; the fifth consecutive year of trade growth below 3%. The slowdown comes at a time when the international community has identified trade as an important component for achieving the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. However, there remain significant opportunities to boost trade for the benefit of all—particularly through new global initiatives under the WTO. The International Chamber of Commerce is supporting global efforts for instance to streamline customs and border procedures, liberalize trade in green technologies and enhance the supply of finance for small businesses looking to trade internationally. Urgent action is needed to restore the growth of global trade starting with some clear reasoning on why trade matters for jobs, for growth, for all. Join the conversation #tradematters So let’s hear more talk about why trade matters; how the gains from trade are realized; how trade can drive sustainable development; and about how concerns about trade’s disruptions can best be handled