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Global trade is, on multiple fronts, going through a period of profound change. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a significant demand and supply shock to global trade flows. The pandemic has also both raised important questions and played into broader discussions around the current system of global trade and its effective governance. The amplification of protectionist trade policies, the next phase of US–China relations, shifting patterns of trade, and the increasingly damaging effects of climate change, all pose significant challenges for the current system of international trade.

 It is in this context that in 2020, as part of its centenary year, Chatham House launched the Global Trade Policy Forum, to explore these different evolving aspects and develop substantive and actionable policy recommendations for the future direction of global trade.


This year’s Global Trade Conference will build on the work of the forum, bringing together leading stakeholders to discuss key developments in global trade and how to create a truly effective and sustainable system(s) of global governance.

  • How has Covid-19 both raised new challenges and played into broader discussions around global trade?

  • With the signing of the ‘phase one’ trade deal and the coming US elections, what is next for US–China relations?

  • How will shifting supply chains, technological developments and the increasing importance of services shape global trade in the 2020s and beyond?

  • What impact is climate change having on global trade? How can effective environmental sustainability and trade policy inform and enable each other?

  • Will the World Trade Organization (WTO) be reformed to address such challenges or developments? Or is the future of international trade governance (at least partially) found elsewhere?

This conference is part of the Chatham House LIVE series and will be hosted online and on the record.

The LIVE series will bring together international audiences and enable participants to connect with peers from across the globe. Over the course of each LIVE conference, participants will be able to engage in high-level panel discussions and conversations between policy makers, business leaders and international experts. Other interactive features will include polling and live analysis of results, in addition to live question and answer sessions between participants and speakers.

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Agenda

Thursday 29 October (all times are GMT)

1230–1300

Keynote Speech: The Future of UK Trade Policy

1300–1420

New Patterns in Global Trade

Patterns of global trade are changing in a number of significant ways. More immediately, COVID-19 has disrupted global supply patterns, creating demand and supply shocks across the world. But the crisis has also served to catalyse and interplay with other key trends in global trade, such as the increasing localisation of global supply chains in the context of a protectionist and de-globalised world.


  • In what different ways has COVID-19 disrupted global trade?

  • What are the potential long term implications of COVID-19 for the current system of global trade?

  • How has the COVID-19 crisis interplayed with other key developments in global trade, such as the localisation of supply chains and a broader retreat from globalisation?

1420–1500

Networking break

1500–1600

Global Power Dynamics and Trade: What’s the Next Phase?

The last few years have seen trade become an increasingly important arena for geopolitics. The rules-based international trade system has come under increasing strain as the world’s two largest economies engaged in a protracted trade war, as part of a wider international turn towards protectionist economic policies. But with the upcoming US election, the impact of COVID-19 on international trade relations, and Brexit, what does the future hold for global trade?


  • What are the underlying drivers of the US–China trade tensions? Have they been sufficiently addressed by the ‘phase one’ deal?

  • What are the implications of US-China tensions on other trading powers, such as the EU and Britain?

  • What might the impact be of the US 2020 elections on global trade relations?

  • How will Brexit impact Britain’s role in global trade relations?

1600–1630

Networking break

1630–1730

Technology and Trade

Technological developments are already redefining trade, though the long-term effects are yet to be known. On the one hand, technology creates new opportunities for global trade, particularly for service-based and digital trade, while also making processes more inclusive and efficient. On the other, technology also has the potential to serve as a disruptive force, posing challenges for international governance and becoming a new arena for geopolitical competition.


  • What are the different key technological developments impacting global trade?

  • What potential do these technologies have for both creating new opportunities and optimising systems?

  • What challenges does technology pose for the current system of global trade?

  • What are implications of the increased territorialisation and politicisation of technology for global trade?

1730

End of day one

Friday 30 October (all times are GMT)

1300–1330

Keynote Speech: In Conversation with Antonia Romeo

1330–1430

Climate Change and Trade

International trade has a crucial role to play in addressing climate breakdown. The current global trading system is a key contributor to climate change. Meanwhile, Covid-19 has highlighted the vulnerability of global supply chains to the environment, leading to the need for a radical rethink to build more resilient systems. As the effects of climate breakdown are increasingly felt, 2020 is a critical year for the global community to better align on global trade and environmental objectives, policy-making and governance.


  • In what different ways is climate change impacting global trade? How are these issues likely to be exacerbated as the climate crisis escalates?

  • How can different models of global trade governance positively or negatively affect the environment? How can trade serve as an effective vehicle of environmental policy?

  • What steps can the international community take to better align global trade and environmental governance in the 2020s?

1430–1500

Networking break

1500–1615

Towards Reform in Global Trade Governance

To secure its relevance and future effectiveness, the WTO will need to undergo significant reform to address the varied economic, social and environmental challenges of the 21st century. This session will reflect on the discussions of the previous sessions to explore how the international community can work together to build a sustainable, inclusive and effective system(s) for global trade governance.


  • What different obstacles and challenges is the current system of international trade governance facing?

  • What could a WTO 2.0 look like? How could it address the different economic, social and environmental challenges of the 21st century?

  • Is WTO reform possible in today’s geopolitical climate?

  • Is the path to global trade reform to be found (at least partially) outside the WTO?

1615

End of day two

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