World trade has experienced a significant slowdown since the 2008 financial crisis. Over this period, the global ratio of trade expansion to income growth has halved. An effective global trade and investment system is crucial for reinvigorating economic growth and confronting 21st century global challenges. Yet the system— well performing as it is in many of its functions—is out of date and in need of greater coherence.
It is this reality that led the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), the World Economic Forum, and 16 partnering institutions to bring together more than 375 international experts in over 80 interactive dialogues between 2012 and 2015 under the E15 Initiative. At the core of the initiative are 15 thematic Expert Groups and three Task Forces, each comprised of leading thinkers from developed and developing countries drawn from different fields and backgrounds. Their work has been complemented by an overarching dialogue looking at the global trade and investment architecture, involving consultations with hundreds of thinkers and policy-makers. The entire process has yielded approximately 150 analytical papers and its deliberations have stimulated a fresh look at the long-term challenges and opportunities facing the global trade and investment system, especially in respect of its efficacy, inclusiveness and contribution to sustainable development.