Well-functioning global trade governance can be a powerful mechanism for enabling countries to pursue sustainable development. By ensuring transparency, rules for differential treatment, and systems such as dispute settlement, small and large countries alike can benefit. Today’s global governance rests on a twenty-year-old framework of rules and dispute settlement combined with emerging regional and preferential rules that are defining and answering some of the new challenges. ICTSD’s work within this area seeks to ensure that global governance continues to provide adaptive and equitable mechanisms to advance trade policy as an effective channel of sustainable development.

ICTSD’s work on international trade law aims to ensure that the WTO’s dispute settlement mechanism promotes sustainable development by ensuring policy actors are informed on how the system functions and the implications of its decisions. ICTSD places a particular emphasis on facilitating developing country access to dispute settlement systems. The organisation has established a unique role in the trade law community by strengthening legal capacity, monitoring WTO cases, and building the necessary international, regional and domestic networks for stakeholder cooperation and interaction.

ICTSD also serves policy actors and influencers globally by reporting and providing analysis on WTO negotiations. Building on its extensive networks and insider knowledge of the institution itself, ICTSD’s Bridges publications are known as a top source of non-partisan information on multilateral trade negotiations. Negotiators and observers alike rely on ICTSD’s accurate reporting of the day-to-day business of the WTO, as well as its unique daily reporting on WTO Ministerial Conferences, which has been a staple of the meetings since negotiators first met in 1996 in Singapore.

Since its founding nearly twenty years ago negotiators at the WTO have made little meaningful progress. Nonetheless, global trade has changed and the WTO must adapt in order to meet new demands. The E15Initiative was launched by ICTSD in 2011 and joined in 2013 by the World Economic Forum in order to understand the challenges and options for addressing them. The Initiative brings globally recognised co-convenor organisations and top experts together to generate policy options that will feed into negotiations into 2016 with the objective of helping to shape the future of the multilateral trade system over the next decade.