Global Trade 2018

Protectionism, power dynamics and changing priorities

1 November 2018 - 9:15am to 5:30pm
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Chatham House, London




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Global trade is in flux. The prospect of protectionist trade policies, particularly in the United States with President Trump’s new trade strategy, fast-evolving new technologies reshaping the trade landscape, and uncertainty about the UK’s future trade relationships – with the EU and beyond – suggests a global trade system that faces more uncertainty than at any time since the Second World War.

Without US support for open market principles, the divergent interests of other countries and trading blocs, including China, Japan and the EU, will make substantial alignment on global trade negotiations and governance difficult. With global trade dynamics undergoing such a major shift, this is a critical time to take stock and assess the effect on trade policies now and in the longer term. This Chatham House conference will assess key questions including:

  • Can the current structures for global trade governance withstand this period of uncertainty?
  • What are the major structural risks to the global trade system?
  • Will recent political developments – including Brexit and the Trump presidency – lead to longer-term protectionist policies on international trade?
  • What new trade patterns and relationships are likely to emerge globally and how might they shift national influence?
  • What does an increase in service-based and digital trade mean for the global economy, and how should trade agreements accommodate their growth?

The Chatham House Rule 
To enable as open a debate as possible, this conference will be held under the Chatham House Rule.


Thursday 1 November

Session One | Political Disruption and the Impact of the United States’ Trade Strategy

This opening session will examine the potential disruption that might be caused by increased protectionist policies by the United States, including tariffs, renegotiation or withdrawal from trade agreements and blocking of the smooth functioning of the WTO. 

  • How much impact have President Trump’s announcements of new tariffs on China and other markets had on the global economy?
  • Will President Trump’s negotiating strategy in implementing tariffs and reviewing existing trade agreements such as NAFTA achieve its intended goals? Will the tactic of staking out a maximalist position and carving out numerous ‘ad hoc’ exemptions lead to greater inefficiency and/or corruption?
  • To what extent is the WTO dispute-resolution mechanism currently fit for purpose in an environment of increased protectionism? How have Trump’s threats to pull out of the organization and his blocking of new appointments to its appellate body affected it? 
  • Is this trend towards greater protectionism limited to the Trump presidency, or will it persist in the US for the medium to long term?

Session Two | The State of Global Trade – Bright Spots and Structural Risks

This session will address the current state of global trade beyond the United States, examining the macroeconomic picture, who the systemic players are and the potential for new trade agreements to alter the landscape.

  • Have the factors that led to the decline in the total volume of global trade in 2015 and 2016 been left behind? How important is China in explaining the continued increase in global trade volumes? 
  • What is the feasibility of maintaining and enhancing trade agreements not involving the US, such as TPP11 and the EU–Japan free trade agreements?  
  • What is the current outlook for greater trade liberalization in emerging markets? Are the market access and state aid issues that stalled the Doha Round any closer to being resolved? Is the Alianza del Pacífico likely to succeed in promoting greater trade and integration in its region, and can it serve as an example for other emerging markets?
  • Has the increase in protectionist measures coming from the United States provoked a backlash by the EU and other major trading partners? Could this extend beyond the US, to a larger cooling of trade? 

Session Three | Technology, Services and Data Trade

This session will focus on the growing importance of ‘intangible’ trade in services and in data and the adequacy of global standards on regulation of trade in these areas. It will also examine the potential for technological improvements to modify the existing trade system. 

  • Will technological innovations such as blockchain be able to streamline customs checks and verification processes, such as rules of origin, product standards and other administrative processes associated with cross-border trade? Could this be scaled sufficiently to markedly increase trade volumes? Are there regulatory barriers to adopting this technology?
  • Will traditional rule-making be able to keep up with new digital businesses? Are the rules governing trade in services still fit for purpose?
  • Are current efforts to lower non-tariff barriers to services trade likely to make meaningful progress?
  • As data becomes a more important commodity, are the emerging international rules on trade in data protection and data governance conducive to promoting international trade in data? Is trade in data likely to become a significant portion of global trade? 

Session Four | Brexit and the Future of Global Trade

This closing session will explore the negotiation and implementation of the UK’s future trade relationship with the EU, as well as the macroeconomic effects it will have on the global economy.

  • What are the most significant trade barriers that a post-Brexit settlement is likely to create for UK-EU trade? How much is trade likely to be adversely affected in the final relationship? How much disruption to global supply chains is likely to occur? 
  • Will the implementation/transition period provide sufficient time for exporters and importers to adapt to the new trading rules? What sort of disruption can be expected?
  • If the UK leaves the Customs Union, does technological development have the potential to mitigate or resolve the issues faced by new customs barriers? Can the UK become a leader in promoting these technologies?
  • Will the UK’s strength in services exports have the potential to provide a new model for competitiveness? What can be done to promote this and what other sectors can the UK government focus on? 

1730 Close of conference and reception hosted by Chatham House

© The Royal Institute of International Affairs 2018

Register by Friday 14 September 2018 to benefit from the early booking rate.

Ways to book:

  1. Online: Click here to complete the online registration form
  2. Phone: Call Charlie Burnett Rae on +44 (0)20 7957 5727
  3. Email/Post: Download a PDF registration form, complete and return to Saoirse McKeon via email or post: Chatham House, 10 St. James Square, London, SW1Y 4LE

Check if your organization is a member of Chatham House here.



Partners and major corporate members  
All organizations£495£595
Standard corporate members  
Commercial organizations£1,085£1,180
Government departments£620£700
NGOs and academics£380£460
Commercial organizations£1,190£1,295
Government departments£680£750
NGOs and academics£440


Your delegate pass includes:

  • Conference attendance
  • Documentation
  • Lunch and refreshments

Travel and accommodation are not included.

If you are interested in becoming a sponsor for this event, please contact Sandra Smits on +44 (0)20 7314 3699

If you are interested in becoming a media partner or supporting organization for this event, please contact Ayesha Arif on +44 (0)20 7957 5753

Chatham House
10 St James's Square
[email protected]

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7957 5643
Fax: +44 (0)20 7957 5710

If you wish to book the venue for your own event please phone +44 (0)20 7314 2764

The nearest tube station is Piccadilly Circus which is on the Piccadilly and the Bakerloo Underground lines. From Piccadilly follow Regent Street southwards towards Pall Mall and take the first road on the right called Jermyn Street. Duke of York Street is the second road on the left and leads to St James's Square. Chatham House is immediately on your right.


Although we cannot book accommodation for delegates, we have arranged a reduced rate at some nearby hotels, where you can book your own accommodation. Please inform the hotel that you will be attending a conference at Chatham House (The Royal Institute of International Affairs) to qualify for the Institute's reduced rate.

Please note all rates are subject to availability.

Flemings Mayfair
13 Half Moon Street
London - W1J 7BH

Tel: + 44 (0)20 7499 2964
Fax: + 44 (0)20 7499 1817
[email protected]

Classic Double without breakfast: £195 +VAT

The Cavendish London
81 Jermyn Street
London - SW1U 6JF

Tel: + 44 (0)20 7930 2111
Fax: + 44 (0)20 7839 2125
[email protected] 

Classic Room without breakfast: £205 +VAT

Book The Cavendish online

The Stafford London 
St James's Place
London - SW1A 1NJ

Tel: 020 7493 0111
Fax: 020 7493 7121
[email protected]

Classic Queen without breakfast: £247 +VAT
Quote Chatham House


This conference will be held under the Chatham House Rule. Information for journalists.

Press can request a press pass.

For enquiries relating to the conference agenda or sponsorship please call Sandra Smits on +44 (0) 20 7314 3699

For registration enquiries please call Charlie Burnett Rae on +44 (0)20 7957 5727

For general enquiries please email [email protected] 

The Chatham House Rule

To enable as open a debate as possible, this event will be held under the Chatham House Rule.