1 September 2014

How can trade deliver on economic goals in a post-2015 framework? This is one of the burning questions in the international trade community, as discussions to formalise a global post-2015 development agenda intensify.

In Rio, Member States agreed to initiate the formulation of a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will build upon the Millennium Development Goals – due to expire next year – and ultimately converge with the post-2015 development agenda. In the Rio+20 outcome document, The “Future We Want”, UN members acknowledge the importance of an environment that fosters sustainable development and international cooperation, including in the area of trade policy.


The UN working group charged with outlining a proposed set of sustainable development goals adopted an outcome document in July, which references a number of trade policy measures, including means of implementation to support progress towards specific goals. These include finance, technology, capacity building, trade, policy and institutional coherence, multi-stakeholder partnerships, and data monitoring and accountability. Some trade observers consider the July outcome document to be a positive development, as trade-related issues are emphasised more than in previous versions.

The 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference of the WTO initially provided a breakthrough in the stalled Doha negotiations, which has the potential to spur significant development in the poorest countries. At the heart of these negotiations lies a comprehensive agreement on trade facilitation, several decisions on agriculture and an “LDC package,” including decisions related to duty-free, quota-free market access, preferential rules of origin, cotton and the LDC waiver. Some experts have pointed out that the Bali Package, to a certain extent, reflects the changing global trading environment.

However, WTO Members were recently unable to bridge a divide that had emerged on the trade facilitation agreement, jeopardising the deal clinched in Bali last December. In light of this, it would be worthwhile to reflect on how trade could be effectively integrated in the post-2015 development agenda and what the realistic prospects might be, given the current stalemate in certain key trade negotiations. How can countries move beyond a simple liberalisation agenda and initiate behind-the-border reforms?

In this edition, we feature an article on the specific development challenges facing Small Island Developing States ahead of this month's SIDS international conference in Apia, Samoa, which will be devoted to the topic of sustainable development.

Lastly, as part of our series of articles on the Economic Partnership Agreement negotiations in Africa, this month, we invite you to read an insightful comparative analysis of Africa's EPA implementation challenges.

As always, we welcome your valuable feedback and contributions. Write to us at bridgesafrica@ictsd.ch.

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1 September 2014
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