While many international lawyers around the world scrambled to debate the US use of force in Syria, quiet and unprecedented shifts took place the same week in international economic law. On 10 April 2017, the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and the World Trade Organization launched their Joint Report, “Making Trade an Engine of Growth for All: The Case for Trade and for Policies to Facilitate Adjustment”. (Markus Wagner thoroughly discusses the Joint Report and his concerns about its salience here.)
The Joint Report demonstrates how these three multilateral institutions perceive themselves, at a time of critical rethinking of the international economic order and resurgent economic nationalisms in the United States, Britain, among others. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, and World Trade Organization Director-General Roberto Azevedo met in Berlin for the launch of the joint report, speaking in defense of the positive impacts of trade and noting that “we must recognize the concerns of people about trade and the impact that it can have in their lives…we need to ensure the benefits of trade are shared more widely. We should also recognize at the same time that 80 percent of the jobs that are lost today in the advanced economies are not due to imports. They are lost because of new technologies, innovation, and higher productivity.” While the Joint Report resounds a strong defense of trade’s value for achieving economic growth (and certainly resonates similar reasoning articulated by Harvard Economist and President Emeritus Lawrence Summers on the significance of trade deals and the ultimate insignificance of trade agreements on deeper macroeconomic concerns of shrinking middle classes), the Joint Report falls short of the mark in attempting to fully address global concerns about the displacing impacts of trade on workers, local communities, individuals and groups.